Volunteers sought for AIS inspections

By Tucker Henderson


The lakes and streams in Otter Tail County are one of the area’s claims to fame, and more importantly, one of the most valuable natural resources. As volunteers for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) test water quality in local lakes and streams, local residents have the opportunity to do the same.

Cheryl Piotraschke is one of those local volunteers. Though she lives and teaches three hours away in Maple Grove, Minn., Piotraschke tries her best to make it up to the Otter Tail County area to test her assigned spots on Rush Lake and the Otter Tail River on a weekly basis.

That task is increasingly easier in June, July and August when school is out and Piotraschke summers around the City of Ottertail. She noted that it can be difficult during the rest of the year when teachers are busy with their students, coursework and keeping lessons straight each week.

“The MPCA understands when you can’t make it every week. I missed a few months and they are just happy to have the results that we do end up with,” said Piotraschke.

Water monitoring can be done once a week, or as often as a volunteer would like, as water conditions are ever-changing. In streams, several tests are done. 

Piotraschke checks for water clarity with a Secchi disk, temperature of the water, rating of recreational usibility, and color. She added that lakes are a bit easier as they don’t test for all of those, but they are quite similar.

“I became a Minnesota Master Naturalist though a course provided by the Minnesota Extension office and part of maintaining that certification is through 40 hours of volunteer service per year,” said Piotraschke of why she decided to become a water monitor. “It helps me feel closer to the land and the water,” she said. “I enjoy seeing the changes through the seasons.” 

Water monitoring can be a great excuse to get out and enjoy Minnesota’s waterways.

“It’s easy and fun, everything is provided for you. There is no cost,” said Piortraschke of volunteering for the MCPA. “It’s a great way to get involved in the natural resource aspect of our state.”