Project Introduction

There are nearly 1,000 natural lakes in Itasca County. The water quality on only about 150 of these lakes has been assessed. The Itasca County region has been identified by lakeshore developers as the area for the next major phase of lakeshore development in Minnesota, so the landscape and, therefore, water quality will be under increasing pressure over the next few decades. 179 of Itasca County's lakes have been designated as "recreational development" lakes but only 31 of these have been assessed adequately enough to meet MPCA's standards[1]. A broad citizens' working group, the Itasca Water Legacy Partnership[2], has identified the increased assessment of Itasca County's lakes as one of the most essential activities needed to ensure the sustained vitality of this resource that is a fundamental economic engine for rural Minnesota.

Principal Investigators and Project Managers

  • John Downing is an adjunct professor at Itasca Community College and a professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, and Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Iowa State University.
  • Jack Jones is an adjunct professor at Itasca Community College and the Dunmire Professor of Water Quality and Chair of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at the University of Missouri.


  • Harry Hutchins, an ICC instructor in Natural Resources
  • Sue Hutchins, an ICC instructor in Biology and Environmental Science
  • Jim Gustafson, district manager of the Itasca Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD)
  • Noel Griese, SWCD lake specialist
  • Rian Reed, the MN Department of Natural Resources watershed coordinator