It's close to 50 degrees outside as I write this and the snow pack is starting to melt. After the flooding last fall, lots of people are nervous about what this will mean.

Flooding is a very visible issue that affects the rivers and lakes; however, there are many less visible issues that affect the health and use of our waters every day. Urban and farm runoff, wastewater treatment or lack thereof, lack of wetlands, urban development, lakeshore development and industrial discharges are just a few.

With all these pollution inputs we are often asked if we are making progress on improving the health of the Cannon River, Straight River and our many lakes and streams.

This is a great question and one we have tried to answer in a newly released report entitled "Signs of Progress: The State of the Cannon and Straight Rivers." The report highlights which streams and lakes are improving, which aren't and other signs of progress across the Cannon River watershed in a style that's easily understandable for the average citizen.

A few highlights include:

  • In both the Cannon and Straight rivers at every location we looked at, from Owatonna all the way to Red Wing, the water has gotten clearer over the past 20 years. That's truly exciting news!

A clearer river means a better habitat for fish and a more beautiful river for everyone to enjoy.

  • Historically, dams have played an important role in fueling the local economy by powering the mills that made the area famous. However, dams cut off fish from their spawning grounds and are a safety concern for canoeists.

In the last 15 years, three dams have been removed from the Straight, Cannon and Little Cannon rivers.

  • Of the 26 lakes we looked at, nine are improving, eight are getting worse and nine are holding steady.

We hope you'll take a look at the full report and share what you learned with your friends and family. To get a copy, you can download it off our website,, or contact the office at 507-786-8400.

There also will be a presentation about the report Monday at the Cannon River Watershed Partnership's annual meeting. The meeting is open to the public and will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Faribault Elks Lodge, 131 Lyndale Ave. N.

If you go ...

What: Cannon River Watershed Partnership annual meeting

When: 6:30-8 p.m. Monday; social time and light refreshments for the first half hour

Where: Faribault Elks Lodge, 131 Lyndale Ave. N.