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Featured Projects

Each month BWSR highlights a project that demonstrates the outcomes achieved through Minnesota's local-state-federal conservation delivery system.

September 2012

Maplewood Mall unveils clean water features


A large cistern capturing runoff from the roof was installed
by the mall's main entrance.

On Sept. 15, 2012, the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District celebrated the completion of an innovative rainwater management project that has been installed at Maplewood Mall.

Through the efforts of many partners, 375 trees and 55 rainwater gardens have been installed over the past three years to control stormwater runoff.

Read more about the featured project for September 2012.

August 2012

Targeting riparian buffers through Clean Water and Outdoor Heritage Funds

David and Jeanette Stottrup Photo
Jeanette and David Stottrup, Litchfield, Minn.,
recently enrolled 43 acres of their land into
the RIM Riparian Buffer Easement program.

Like many landowners in Minnesota, David and Jeanette Stottrup (Litchfield) are contemplating what to do with their expiring Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. The Strottrups have 162 acres currently enrolled in the program, all of which will expire in the next five years.

David Stottrup, a retired teacher, said the CRP has been great for his family-it allowed them to farm on a small scale while holding jobs in town.

"I grew up on a small low-tech farm in Pine County. The headwaters for Little Sand Creek began in the woods on our land at a spring, which came bubbling up out of the ground between three giant Norway Pines. Since then I've always had affection for little cricks and ponds in the woods," Stottrup said.

Read more about this featured project to learn why the Stottrups are enrolling 43 acres of that land in the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Riparian Buffer Easement program, and how the program will protect nearby water quality and enhance wildlife habitat.

Read more about this project


December 2011

Targeting BMPs on the Upper South Branch of the Buffalo River

Walk-In Sign Setting Photo
Targeting Conservation with Advanced
Geographic Information System Modeling

The Buffalo-Red River Watershed District partnered with the Wilkin and West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCDs) to develop a method for determining the most effective locations for Best Management Practices (BMP) to be implemented in the upper watershed of the South Branch of the Buffalo River. Two primary waterways in the project area, Deerhorn Creek and the Buffalo River - South Branch, are impaired for turbidity. Additionally, sediment build-up in the channels has resulted in reduced flow capacity which leads to over-bank flooding. This project identifies areas of high sediment contribution. SWCD staff will target their marketing efforts of BMPs to these areas to reduce sediment loads and runoff.

Advanced Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques applied across the 154 square miles watershed rank the sediment contributions from ‘catchment areas’ based on Stream Power Index (SPI) and the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation. The GIS results were then provided to the SWCDs to aid in marketing BMPs installation within the project area.

Read more about this project


November 2011

Walk-In Access Program: Off to a Strong Start

Walk-In Sign Setting Photo
DNR staff posts WIA areas with specially designed signs.

The Walk-In Access (WIA) program is off to a strong start thanks to the efforts of local SWCDs, BWSR and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). WIA provides hunters with public access to private land and compensates landowners for allowing that access. The primary objective is to provide 50,000 acres of new hunting opportunities on private lands with quality wildlife habitat in southwestern Minnesota. Individuals can hunt during any open hunting season (including spring turkey) with no landowner contacts necessary. Locations are posted with Walk-In signs, published in an annual book, and posted on the DNR web site as download maps and GPS points. WIA enrollment is targeted towards privately owned lands that are already in a conservation program, such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). This is the first of a three year pilot program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A total of 9,117 acres were enrolled this summer in 17 counties with 89 landowners. Nearly 75 percent of the landowners signed contracts for two or three years.

Read more about this project



September 2011

Feedlot upgraded in Fillmore County through Legacy Amendment grant and Ag BMP Loan

Feedlot project photo
The completed project involved relocating the lot and building a structure that is designed to control runoff and provide shelter for livestock.

A feedlot project completed in Fillmore County is part of a larger effort to restore water quality in the Root River, and it demonstrates how local and state government agencies have worked together to help landowners finance environmental improvements.

The Fillmore Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) had been working with a producer for a couple of years to develop a plan to bring the feedlot into compliance and to sign up for funding to make the project financially feasible.  The feedlot is located in an impaired watershed, making it a high priority project for the Clean Water Fund Competitive Grant program. The program is funded through the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment and administered by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

BWSR coordinates the grant program in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), which offers low-interest loans to landowners through its Agriculture Best Management Practice (Ag-BMP) Loan program. SWCDs work with eligible landowners to apply for grants and/or loans during the same application period. Applications for feedlot projects are all sent to BWSR, whether they are requesting a grant, a loan or both. The Fillmore SWCD applied for and received a competitive grant for 75 percent of the eligible project cost and a loan that paid for the remaining costs. That allowed the landowner to pay for the upgrade over a period of 10 years at a low interest rate of 3 percent. The partnership of state agencies, working cooperatively with SWCDs, has resulted in improved administrative efficiency and has led to many projects getting completed instead of being delayed while a landowner seeks financing elsewhere.

Read more about this project

August 2011

Controlled Subsurface Drainage Pilot Project

Drainage project photo
An existing drainage tile line was retrofitted with a water control structure, flow monitoring equipment, and precipitation gauge.

A conservation drainage project in Kandiyohi County is demonstrating a win-win solution to common tradeoffs in crop production – draining fields in the spring and fall enables crops to be planted and harvested, but draining fields throughout the growing season can take water away from crops when they need it. Subsurface drainage can also impact water quality by carrying nitrate and soluble phosphorus into water bodies.

The system in Kandiyohi County contains a water control structure that allows for manipulation of the water table in the affected part of the field. The structure holds back water in the drainage tile and soil profile, except in the spring and fall when more drainage is needed. This pilot project will provide producers in the Middle Fork Crow River watershed and around the region with an opportunity to learn about the benefits of drainage water management by seeing the system in action.

Funding sources included a Clean Water Fund Competitive Grant (from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment), through the Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Read more about this project

July 2011

Cold Spring Rain Garden Initiative

Rain Garden photo
Curb-cut rain garden with a pretreatment chamber.

In an effort to improve water quality in the Sauk River, which is on the state's impaired waters list, the Sauk River Watershed District (SRWD) initiated several landowner best management practice programs. One of these programs is the Cold Spring Rain Garden Initiative, aimed at reducing storm water runoff to Brewery Creek and the Sauk River.

This program focused on a 5-square-mile area within the City of Cold Spring where storm water directly drains into the impaired Sauk River. By targeting information and outreach to landowners in that area, 75 landowners responded by expressing a concern and interest in doing their part to help the Sauk River, and 33 rain gardens are being installed. Rain gardens will restore water quality by infiltrating potential pollutants before entering waterways. Collaboration between the SRWD and the City of Cold Spring is one of the keys to success of the program. The rain gardens will reduce city maintenance to the storm water system. They will also help protect Brewery Creek from high temperature run-off that negatively affects the brook trout population, and reduce the volume of silt and biomass from entering the Sauk River.

Funding sources included a Clean Water Fund Competitive Grant (from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment), through the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

Read more about this project

June 2011

Martin SWCD Preserves Rare Plant Species

Sullivant's Milkweed photo
Rare native plants being preserved by the Martin SWCD include Sullivant’s Milkweed.

The Martin Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is working to preserve about 100 native plant species that are currently surviving in remnant prairie areas in Martin County. The SWCD received a grant through BWSR to establish a native buffer program, which provides grants to local landowners to plant filter strips or buffers around wells and along surface water bodies. These projects help protect and improve water quality while preserving and increasing the amount of native plant material available for future restoration projects.

Martin SWCD staff works with local landowners to plant rare species in sites where they are protected and have the greatest opportunity to become established, and where they provide the greatest benefits for water quality, such as near wells, tile intakes, lakes, streams, and within and around wetlands.

Environment and Natural Trust Fund logoA primary focus is to provide a source for local ecotype native species that are currently unavailable and species that seem to be rare and/or in decline locally. Increasing populations of these species to the point where seed supplies can be provided to growers is the next step in expanding their usage and helping with their long-term survival. Funding sources include the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Read more about this project

May 2011

BWSR Academy
2010 BWSR Academy participants working through a hands-on training session.

BWSR Academy

Each year, the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) provides training to conservation-based local government staff during a three-day BWSR Academy. Planning is underway for the 2011 training event, which will be October 25-27 in Central Minnesota (location is to be determined).

The BWSR Academy provides high quality training for local government staff that maintains and improves the delivery of conservation work and meets the shared expectations of BWSR and local resource management boards. Each day of the event features training sessions on a broad range of topics for people with different levels of experience, from people who have just started their conservation career to those with 10-plus years of experience

For the 2010 Academy, attendees were asked to identify their learning goals before the session and then if the Academy met their learning goals. Results show that wetland and organizational capacity topics were most prevalent in participants’ personal goals, and 94 percent of participants said the 2010 Academy met their professional training needs and expectations. The 2011 BWSR Academy will seek to have further defined learning objectives that will allow participants to better tailor their course selection to have maximum individual benefit.

Read more about this project

April 2011

Stormwater management project at Breezy Point
Stormwater management demonstration project at Breezy Point Resort.

Project Recharge

Project Recharge, led by the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), received state grants through BWSR to identify water quality trends and to assist homeowners and communities with strategies for being proactive on water quality protection, which is less costly and more efficient than being reactive to water quality problems.

Activities that contribute pollutants and excess runoff to the lakes include the addition of impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and roofs, as well as conversion of the forested landscape for agricultural, residential and commercial purposes. Project Recharge received a competitive grant through BWSR in 2010 to address those pollution sources by completing many conservation projects, including shoreland restorations, rain gardens, and stormwater management practices that filter and treat polluted stormwater around the Brainerd Lakes Area. The grant was funded by the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.

Collectively, over two tons of sediment, 16 pounds of phosphorus, and six million
gallons of annual runoff is prevented from entering Pelican, Serpent, Crosslake, Rush, East and West Fox lakes.

Read more about this project

March 2011

RIM Reserve logo
Click to view the RIM Reserve interactive map.

RIM Reserve online map

BWSR staff recently completed an online, interactive map project that makes information about lands enrolled in conservation easements easily accessible. The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve conservation easement program has protected over 200,000 acres of privately owned land since the program was established in 1986. Conservation easements involve the acquisition of limited rights in land for conservation purposes. The land remains in private ownership, and participating landowners establish conservation practices such as native prairie and wetland restorations.

BWSR's online map interface quickly delivers information that would otherwise require GIS software. The map shows the actual easement boundaries set against an aerial photo background.

A quick glance shows that most easements are adjacent to a creek, river, or stream. Using the map identify tool () to click on a specific easement, users can view more detailed information such as program type, acreage, cost, and expiration date.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.

Read more about this project

February 2011

Monitoring restored wetlands for long-term quality

Photo of wetland buffer
Pictured: The restored wetland includes a buffer that consists of a diverse mix of native grasses and flowers (above). Click the photo to show a mowed buffer, which prevents the wetland from achieving the intended benefits.

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) routinely inspects sites where wetlands have been restored through the wetland banking program. From 2007-2010, a total of 215 sites have been visited by BWSR staff, and about two-thirds of the sites have required some corrective action to be taken by landowners to comply with the terms of a conservation easement that protects the restored wetland and adjacent native vegetation buffers. The majority of the non-compliance issues involve the presence of noxious weeds and a lack of boundary markers. Other issues that have been identified include the presence of unapproved structures and debris, engineering concerns related to the viability of the restoration, and alterations to the wetland vegetation (usually mowing or planting crops).

An example of recent easement compliance work involved unauthorized mowing within an easement established in 2001. Part of the easement area lacked signage to identify the boundary, and the property had changed ownership, which led to uncertainty about the landowner's responsibilities in the terms of the conservation easement. The grass buffer, surrounding a restored wetland, was routinely being mowed and hayed by vendors hired by the landowner and the homeowner’s association. The mowing degraded the wetland vegetation and negatively affected the intended improvements to water quality and wildlife habitat.

Read more about this project

January 2011

Bostic and Zippel creeks watershed assessment

Photo of two-stage ditch construction
Pictured: A two-stage ditch was constructed to resolve erosion caused by steep side slopes and unstable soils in the ditch bank.

Sedimentation in two bays on Lake of the Woods is being addressed through a comprehensive, watershed-based approach that has included water quality monitoring and several projects to restore water quality. The sedimentation in Bostic and Zippel bays has frequently prevented access to the lake without dredging, which has reduced water quality, potentially impacted spawning sites on this world-class fishing destination and created financial hardship for resorts in those areas.

Construction of a 2-stage ditch was completed in 2009, which is only a part of an overall solution to sedimentation in the lake. The Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation District has received additional competitive grants through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and BWSR to continue implementing solutions and monitoring water quality to quantify the benefits over time.

Read more about this project

December 2010

Citizen outreach leads to projects that reduce runoff

Photo of permeable pavers
Pictured: This driveway uses permeable pavers to allow water to soak into the ground, and it is one of 34 projects that will reduce stormwater runoff into Diamond Lake by about 1.5 million gallons each year.

The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District (MCWD) and the statewide nonprofit Minnesota Waters have a unique partnership to carry out MCWD’s Watershed Association Initiative – a program to empower citizens to protect and improve district waters by providing trainings, support and fostering a network of lake and river groups. The initiative also strongly encourages groups to collaborate with community businesses, organizations, and government agencies.

The partnership created the Go Blue! Project, which provides up to 50 percent cost share for residential landowners who install projects that capture stormwater runoff and pollutants before they reach Diamond Lake. Raingardens, pervious pavements, and trees capture water and help it soak into the ground. Rain barrels and larger underground systems allow for ‘capture and reuse’ of rainwater, reducing groundwater used for irrigation.

This project was initiated by residents who are committed to cleaning up Diamond Lake. The Go Blue! Diamond Lake project represents that unique collaboration of engaged citizens working with private entities and local government that is essential to protecting and restoring the waters of Minnesota.

Read more about this project

November 2010

Conservation easements in Rock County wellhead protection area

Photo of sedge meadow one year after restoration
Pictured: Water tower for Rock County Rural Water adjacent to fields used for agricultural production.

The Rock County Rural Water system provides drinking water to more than 700 rural farm residences and four small communities. The system relies on a shallow groundwater aquifer and 11 wells located along the Rock River. The system's Wellhead Protection (WHP) area is 4,470 acres in size, due to the geology and direct influence of surface water recharge to the aquifer and wells. Row crop agriculture production is the primary land use found in the WHP area. Based on the critical importance of protecting this vulnerable aquifer today and for future generations, the Rock County Land Management Office has worked with landowners and farmers over the years to enroll 240 acres of Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve conservation easements within the WHP area. RIM Reserve easements take the land out of production and restore the land to a natural state.

The Rock County Land Management Office continues efforts working with rural water system staff, farmers and other local partners to promote RIM Reserve and other conservation practices to protect the aquifer and wellhead protection area, which has enabled them to avoid more costly water treatment methods for removing nitrates.

Read more about this project

October 2010

Wetland replacement for airport expansion project

Photo of sedge meadow one year after restoration
Pictured: Sedge meadow, one year after restoration, with the airport in the background.

An airport expansion project in Forest Lake required local, state and federal government agency staff to design the project to comply with federal regulations for airport safety, which prohibit open water near runways, and state and federal wetland regulations, which require wetlands that are drained or filled to be replaced.

The final project involved restoring 2.27 acres of high-quality wetlands to replace 1.7 acres of wetlands that needed to be filled to accommodate the airport expansion. The results were 2.27 acres of high-quality sedge meadow wetlands that will provide greater wildlife habitat, greater vegetative diversity, greater water quality protection and provide greater stormwater protection than the wetlands that were filled.

Also, 1.88 acres of upland buffer were established to provide additional mitigation and a buffer from the cropped fields adjacent to the wetlands.

Read more about this project

September 2010

Certifying sustainable forestry

Photo of landowner in forest
Pictured: Roger Howard, Aitkin County SWCD Certified Group landowner, eyes up a basswood tree on his property. The wood from this tree will be marketed as FSC Certified.

The Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is breaking new ground in the arena of forest management and protection. The Aitkin County SWCD has a group certificate through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that identifies private forestlands as sustainably managed. Through this voluntary program, landowners with a forest stewardship plan enroll their forest acreage and manage their woodlands for multiple benefits including water quality protection and maintenance of wildlife habitat.

Forests in central Minnesota are a critical resource in protecting the area’s water resources through holding the soil in place and serving as a vital reservoir that reduces the peak runoff from high rain events and extends stream flow during periods of drought.

By certifying their forests as sustainable, landowners can see additional financial benefit and may be encouraged to defer the development of these sensitive properties.

Read more about this project

August 2010

Outreach to promote conservation practices in southern Minnesota

Photo of cover crops
Pictured: Rye planted in this field in southern Minnesota will help prevent soil erosion and provide many other benefits. Outreach is resulting in more landowners understanding the multiple benefits of installing these conservation practices.

An outreach effort based out of southern Minnesota is promoting the use of cover crops to protect and restore water quality, and the outreach is resulting in more landowners understanding the multiple benefits of installing these conservation practices. Results of the effort include farmer to farmer learning, on-farm cover crop demonstration, and research and outreach to increase the base knowledge levels of cover crops with farmers and resource agency staff in Minnesota and Iowa.

Partner organizations are promoting the multiple benefits of cover crops to landowners instead of relying on landowners to express interest.

Goals include developing simple best management practices that will assist farmers in using different cover crops.

Read more about this project

July 2010

Winnetka Ponds Improvement Project

Photo of pond project
Pictured: 5700 Winnetka Avenue Pond Improvements Project.

A stormwater improvement project to expand an existing pond and to replace an erosion-prone ditch with a second stormwater pond was completed in 2009 by the City of New Hope with financial assistance from the Shingle Creek Watershed Management Organization (WMO).

This project -- called the "5700 Winnetka Avenue Pond Improvements Project" -- had a well-planned history with the WMO and the City of New Hope, and it is a targeted best management practice to fix a locally identified, high-priority issue. Stormwater runoff is a primary source of water quality problems in urban areas. Stormwater runoff is a primary source of water quality problems in urban areas. Stormwater ponds are one way to protect and restore water quality by storing surface water runoff and settling out pollutants, instead of sending surface water runoff directly into lakes, rivers or streams – in this case North Twin Lake. In fully developed areas like New Hope, finding available land to construct ponds is difficult and often expensive.

Modeling predicts an annual phosphorus reduction of 17 pounds, or an estimated removal efficiency of 27 percent, from the tributary area to North Twin Lake.

Read more about this project

June 2010

Partnership Accelerates Availability of Online Soils Data

Photo of soil sample
Pictured: The 'gleyed' layer of this soil sample, identified by the grey color, indicates wet soils that are less suitable for some land uses, like crop production or septic system drain fields.

Accurate soils information is essential for evaluating the potential for land to support development, crop and forest production, and for identifying the most suitable locations for conservation practices and other land uses. Readily accessible local soil information is critical to informing conservation decisions and provides a foundation for sustainable land use planning. The soil survey is the mechanism for how this basic natural resource information is made available to land use authorities and landowners to make the best land use decisions.

As the demands of more increasingly intensive land uses have grown, the USDA began accelerating soil surveys and beginning in 2005 the information was available using a web-based approach.

The National Cooperative Soil Survey program (NCSS) is a nationwide partnership of federal, tribal, state and local agencies, private entities and academic institutions that began over 100 years ago. Current partners include USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS); University of Minnesota; Tribal Governments; State of Minnesota, and local units of government. Funding has been provided through a number of sources. However the largest single contributor has been the USDA. In order to accelerate the completion of the Minnesota Soil Survey, additional funding has been provided through the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, administered by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. A proposal to help complete the inventory of the remaining survey areas by June 30, 2013 is pending. Continued state support is imperative to avoid a several year delay in completion of the initial inventory.

Read more about this project

May 2010

University of Minnesota, Fens Wetland Bank Site

Photo of forested bog
Pictured: A forested bog in St. Louis County

Approximately 457 acres of land in St. Louis County that had been used for agricultural research is being converted into a forested bog. The completed project will be a wetland with native alder, black spruce, tamarack trees, and a small amount of upland buffer. Sphagnum moss will be an important part of the understory.

Sphagnum moss is being harvested from a nearby bog (pictured) and spread on the restoration site. The moss contains native plant seed and creates the ideal growing conditions for wetland vegetation. Various restoration techniques are being utilized on different parts of the site to evaluate their effectiveness.

The purpose of the wetland restoration is to generate credits that can be used as mitigation to offset impacts to wetlands as a result of local road projects. Credits are the number of restored acres, or a percentage of the restored acres, depending on the quality of restored vegetation and many other factors. If a wetland impact is unavoidable, a road authority may use wetland credits as mitigation through the state wetland banking program (See M.S. 103G.222), administered by the Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Read more about this project

April 2010

Protection of Minnesota River Valley Granite Rock Outcrop Ecosystem

Photo of cactus growing in rock outcrop
Pictured: A rock outcrop near the Minnesota River where brittle prickly pear cactus is beginning to bear fruit. This is one of few places in Minnesota where these plants can be found.

The Minnesota River Valley contains exposed ancient granite rock outcrops that provide unique landscape features, as well as habitat for specialized plant and animal communities rarely found elsewhere in Minnesota. These rock outcrops are threatened by mining, overgrazing and other development interests. Past development activities and mining operations have already fragmented large areas of this fragile landscape. Interest in mining these exposed granite rock outcrops is high, because of the relatively low cost of removal. The rock is readily accessible, which encourages the practice of horizontal mining -- removing the easiest and most profitable rock, and moving on to the next site. Unlike a gravel mining operation, there is no reclamation plan possible for replacing the unique landscape feature once it has been removed.

A proposal was made by the Renville Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) for a conservation easement program to preserve and enhance rock outcrops.

The LCCMR made its recommendations to the Legislature for projects to be funded through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, and the project received funding in 2007. Landowners have submitted applications to project 788 acres of rock outcrops through this program.

Read more about this project

March 2010

Hay Creek Watershed Sediment Reduction Project

Photo of gully repair project
Gully being closed after tile and sediment basin installation as part of the Hay Creek Watershed Project.

A partnership of local, state and federal organizations has used various funding sources to target nonpoint pollution reduction efforts to the Hay Creek Watershed, a 24-square-mile area in Becker County that features several high-quality lakes. One funding source was a state Clean Water Legacy grant that was received in 2008 by the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District.

The grant leveraged local and federal dollars, and it built on previous efforts to identify locations where conservation projects could provide the greatest benefits for water quality and wildlife habitat. The watershed district in partnership with the Becker SWCD and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office staff developed a plan to install 20 water and sediment control basins and 60 acres of buffer strips of native vegetation to be established along either side of Hay Creek.

The response exceeded what was originally expected. In 2009, 25 water and sediment control basins and 99 acres of native buffer plantings were installed in the Hay Creek watershed. Those projects led to more interest from landowners, so an additional 24 water and sediment control basins and 78 acres of buffers are scheduled to be installed in 2010. Selling the conservation practices to landowners in the watershed by NRCS staff and Becker SWCD staff were among the keys to success.

Read more about this project

February 2010

Grants to Aitkin and Cass counties to help increase conservation easements

Forested lakeshore lot in a conservation easement
Land on Little Bass Lake in Aitkin County that is protected by a permanent conservation easement.

Nearly 900 acres of land adjacent to lakes and streams are protected from future development in Aitkin and Cass counties, thanks partly to state grants that helped landowners pay for costs associated with enrolling shoreland property into conservation easements. In order to enroll land in a conservation easement, the landowner would have to pay about $10,000 for appraisals, surveys, legal fees and other expenses before completing the transaction. Local government officials in Aitkin, Cass and Crow Wing counties proposed a solution – offer landowners a $10,000-$15,000 payment to offset their costs. The three counties jointly applied for and received a Local Water Management Challenge Grant in 2005 and in 2007. These competitive state grants are administered by the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and they target state funds to high-priority projects that are identified in local water management plans.

A total of $156,000 in payments to landowners resulted in shoreland property easements of land valued at about $3.2 million. Sites included about 4,500 feet along a tributary that feeds Lake Mille Lacs, and 3.8 miles of lakeshore property in Aitkin and Cass counties.

Read more about this project

January 2010

Pickwick Dam Emergency Outlet Repair and Streambank Stabilization

Photo of Pickwick Dam Emergency Outlet
Pictured: Pickwick Dam emergency spillway outlet (looking upstream) features a plunge pool with boulder riffles and riprap channel lining downstream to maintain a depth of 5 feet.

A local-state-federal partnership of conservation agencies repaired an emergency spillway at the Pickwick Dam in 2009. The dam is located on Big Trout Creek southeast of Winona, and it was one of hundreds of sites that were damaged by extreme rainfall and flooding in southeast Minnesota in August 2007. The project was completed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), Winona Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and Homer Township, in coordination with the Minnesota DNR Dam Safety Unit and Pickwick Mill, Inc. Engineering assistance was provided by Yaggy Colby Associates.

Providing assistance to hire private engineering and construction companies to work on this project was the key to getting the project done on schedule and meeting the technical assistance requirements of state and federal funding sources. The large number of flood recovery projects that require engineering has created tremendous workload for engineering and technical staff for the local, state and federal conservation agencies.

Read more about this project

December 2009

Red Lake County Cooperative Weed Management Area

Photo of field with Canada Thistle
Local, state and federal agencies in Red Lake County have developed a coordinated approach to controlling Canada Thistle (pictured above) and other weeds throughout the county.

A state grant provided start-up dollars for a cooperative effort to manage and control invasive and noxious plants in Red Lake County. The competitive grant was available through the Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) program. The Red Lake County Soil and Water Conservation District is leading this effort, which has brought together local, state, and federal agencies, landowners, and private industry to jointly plan a coordinated effort to control the noxious weeds.

Red Lake SWCD staff worked with representatives from local, state, and federal governments to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and an overall strategy and work plan. The MOU identifies the CWMA team, mutual goals, interests and benefits and the roles and responsibilities each team member. The CWMA team has implemented the program by determining what weeds will be targeted, what non-state dollars and in-kind contributions of staff time and equipment will be used to match the grant funds, and how the money will be spent.

The primary focus is weed control on non-crop areas (either public or private) such as pasture, road ditches, and farmyards. Funding paid for a broad range of tools and techniques for preventing and controlling weeds, including mapping, early detection, chemical control, re-vegetation, monitoring, and public education.

Keys to the success have included information sharing, targeting of treatment, and providing financial assistance for the costs of treatment.

Read more about this project

November 2009

Rock County Level III Feedlot Inventory

Roof and runoff control structure
Feedlot conservation projects installed in Rock County have included roof and runoff control structures.

Manure management systems, filter strips and other conservation best management practices have been implemented at more than 100 feedlot sites in Rock County from 2002-2008. The project sites were identified during a Level III feedlot inventory conducted by the Rock Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). Rock SWCD staff conducted 655 site visits and identified 128 feedlots that required corrective action. All but 20 have been fixed as of September 2009. Of those remaining 20 sites, 10 have implemented partial fixes, and each of those landowners has signed an Open Lot Agreement, which requires them to bring their operations into compliance by October 2010.

The feedlot inventory also helped the Rock SWCD secure competitive grant funds, such as federal EQIP funds and state Feedlot Water Quality Management grants. Comprehensive data was collected for each feedlot in the county, including which sites had the highest pollution potential and what would need to be done to bring those sites into compliance. That data enabled the SWCD to clearly identify priorities and to develop effective grant applications to pay for high-priority projects.

Read more about this project

October 2009

Lac qui Parle Riverbank Stabilization

Lac qui Parle Riverbank
Lac qui Parle River, post-construction photo of bank stabilization project.

A riverbank stabilization project on the Lac qui Parle River was completed in 2007 through a Clean Water Legacy grant that leveraged other state and local funds. The velocity of the river was causing severe bank erosion near a bridge along Lac qui Parle County Highway 31 that was rebuilt in 2004. With careful collaboration and direction from DNR Fisheries staff, the project has stabilized 1,500 feet of riverbank, which has resulted in erosion control, habitat and water quality benefits.

The ability to leverage state, federal and local dollars contributed to the successful Clean Water Legacy grant application. The innovative design and careful installation of the many components of this project were also key.  The vegetated bankfull shelf reduced the amount of rip rap needed for the project, which helped reduce the project cost. The bankfull shelf reduces velocities by providing a wider floodplain for the entrenched channel, and the vegetation provides roughness, which also reduces velocities.

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Medicine Lake Stormwater Management

Medicine Lake photo
Medicine Lake, post-construction photo of stormwater management project.

A $425,000 stormwater management project was completed in 2007-2008 near Medicine Lake to improve water quality and to protect a regional park trail and road crossing.  

Medicine Lake, located in Plymouth, is the second largest lake in Hennepin County and is considered the most important recreational water body in the Bassett Creek Watershed. Inadequate stormwater capacity was causing water to back up, which led to excessive erosion along a 1,200-foot drainage way. The erosion was continuously contributing sediment and phosphorus to Medicine Lake, and it was comprising the integrity of a road crossing and regional park trail.

The project repaired the drainage way by re-grading the eroded channel and installing three flow-control weirs and stilling basins to slow flow and prevent future erosion. Two new culverts were installed to prevent water from backing up into the pedestrian trail corridor under County Road 9. Water quality ponding, which provides additional holding capacity, was also constructed concurrently with the drainage way repair to increase the water quality benefits of the project.

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Cook SWCD Flood Recovery Grant

Cook County Herald Photo
Cook County News-Herald Photo of flooding adjacent to home

A $125,000 grant through the State Conservation Cost-Share Program is being used to repair stream banks and address other erosion and water quality problems that were caused by flooding in Cook County.

The grant is paying for 75 percent of the costs of 12 separate projects. The work will include grading and stabilizing stream banks, installing grassed waterways to repair gullies, installing sediment basins to control soil erosion, establishing native vegetation in critical areas for water quality and wildlife habitat, and restoring a trout stream.

Local partners include Cook County, Cook Soil and Water Conservation District, and Non-Point Engineering Assistance Program Technical Service Area #3.

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