Image for US and Canada Trust RESPEC Water Science

Washington, DC. Collaborating with the US and Canada to improve a critical water resource, RESPEC’s team has been recognized for developing another successful, high-visibility environmental project with international impact. In June 2018, the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board presented the International Joint Commission (IJC) with a recommendation to endorse phosphorus reduction goals for Lake of the Woods, a lake that spans a border of both the US and Canada. The phosphorous reduction goals were outlined in a study that RESPEC completed on behalf of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). Representing Canada and the US, the IJC endorsed and submitted the Board’s recommendations to both governments for immediate interim phosphorus reductions in the lake that covers approximately 1,500 square miles. In 2008, the waters on the US Minnesota side of the lake were declared impaired because phosphorus and algae (measured in chlorophyll a) exceeded water quality standards.

For decades concerned groups have been working together to increase the water quality of the enormous lake, shared by Minnesota and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba. For the past 6 years, RESPEC’s Minnesota staff has played a key role in providing water science to the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board. The MPCA and the Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) hired RESPEC to conduct a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) study of the resource. The Lake of the Woods Sustainability Foundation, a non-profit, also works binationally to protect the lake.

Beginning in 2015, RESPEC conducted the TMDL study and wrote the project report. The study included creating eight HSPF (Hydrologic Simulation Program – Fortran) models to represent pollutant runoff from the watershed into the lake. RESPEC’s team also created five linked lake models to represent how the lake responds to the watershed runoff. Although the study is complete, the project will continue through 2018 as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and public review cycles are completed.

Supporting MPCA and the Foundation, RESPEC played a significant role in establishing TMDL studies for the governments of Canada and the US as they worked together to establish a shared binational phosphorus substance objective and load reduction targets for Lake of the Woods, an important shared binational waterbody.

According to Project Manager Julie Blackburn, RESPEC’s Minnesota Operations Manager, this study is a major success. Her Minnesota team led the project management, outreach, public meetings, communications, HSPF modeling, lake modeling, technical approach, and report development. Blackburn said, “The International Joint Commission has already formally endorsed the water quality targets that our RESPEC team developed through the Lake of the Woods TMDL study, and has submitted this endorsement to the governments of Canada and the United States. This endorsement means the IJC trusts our science and is willing to work towards progressive solutions now. By the first week of July, we and the MPCA will submit the draft TMDL to the US EPA.”

Blackburn also praised her team members in Minnesota and South Dakota for their excellent contribution, citing Geoff Kramer, Engineer; Bruce Wilson, Limnologist; Paul Marston, Scientist; and Engineer Chris Lupo, who led the HSPF modeling portion of the project.

According to Blackburn, TMDL reports are oftentimes years in the making and there can be a lengthy review prior to the reports becoming final and, therefore, implementable. The IJC endorsement of this report and its findings, prior to full completion of the review and approval process, means the collaborative restoration effort starts immediately.

RESPEC is very pleased to contribute effective science to the lake with a long history of international cooperation among agencies. Using advanced water quality science to address the needs of the Lake of the Woods basin ecosystem will result in greater health and eventual restoration.

Founded in 1969, RESPEC is a global leader in geoscience, engineering, data, and integrated technology solutions for major industry sectors.