The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last week unveiled a new online tool — the Watershed Health Assessment Framework — that provides easy access to water quality and health information for thousands of Minnesota lakes.

The tool allows users to compare a lake's health measures to nearby lakes, as well as show a lake's relative water quality, biology and hydrology. It also lists features such as the lake's acreage, miles of shore and basin name.

The tool "will benefit anyone who wants to know more about a particular lake's water quality and the health of the aquatic habitat and community in that lake. It will also help guide decisions about lake protection and restoration," said Katie Smith, ecological and water resources division director for the DNR.

The information should also help residents, local government leaders and water resource agencies work together on comprehensive watershed management efforts.

"A healthy lake is one that is nearest to its natural state — free from pollution and with a natural shoreline that protects the bank and filters runoff — which allows it to withstand changing conditions and seasonal fluctuations," Smith said in a news release. "Healthy lakes depend on people who value these resources and invest in the protection and restoration of the water, watershed, and biology."

The tool can be accessed at



Sheriff's Office launches crime-mapping site

The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office has launched an interactive dashboard that shows incidents of crime and locations — stats that are updated daily at

The map shows crimes against people and property and other offenses that are reportable as part of the National Incident Based Reporting System, the database the Sheriff's Office uses to collect details and analyze statistics.

Data dates back to Jan. 1, 2021, and can be sorted by location, date range and responding agencies, among other criteria.

The crime map shows incidents that happen within the deputies' jurisdiction. Duluth, Hermantown and Virginia use separate records system, according to the county, so the crimes won't be on the map unless a St. Louis County deputy was involved.



USDA pursuing applications to improve rural transportation

The federal government is accepting applications for grants to improve rural transportation systems in the hope that investments can improve rural communities' economic prospects.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will be accepting applications as part of its Rural Business Development Grants program. Applications are due to the applicant's nearest USDA office by April 19.

Priority will be given to projects that help communities create more and better market opportunities, advance equity and combat climate change. For more information, visit