Watershed Connections - July 2015

Watershed Connections

July 2015

Citizens, lawmakers pursue Minnesota River basin organization

MRC April 2015

Along with organizational business, possible legislation to create a new Minnesota River Council will be presented and discussed at the fourth Minnesota River Congress Thursday, July 23 at the Turner Hall in New Ulm.

The Congress will open with a networking fair at 4:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m., and program at 6:30 p.m. A variety of organizations active in the Minnesota River basin will have displays at the networking fair. Photo: Wild River Academy staff at their table for the April 16 Congress networking fair.

State legislators scheduled to address the Congress include Reps. Clark Johnson and Paul Torkelson, both of whom are members of the Legislative Water Commission. Also addressing the congress will be DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and former state senator and DNR regional director Dennis Frederickson.

The proposed legislation is being developed by the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District. It is being driven by sediment and dredging costs in the lower Minnesota River. Data show an increased need for water management throughout the basin to reduce sediment scoured from near-channel sources, using tools ranging from cover crops to upland water storage.

The Lower Minnesota River Watershed District has voted to endorse the Minnesota River Congress and looks forward to participation and partnering sponsorship of future Congress functions, says Linda Loomis, executive director.

Register for the July 23 Congress by sending your name and address, and $15 registration fee (includes meal) to Minnesota River Congress, PO Box 488 New Ulm, MN 56073. Online registration is available at: https://payableform.appspot.com/forms/avm4p.

For more information, contact Scott Sparlin, 507-276-2280, sesparlin@gmail.com; or Ted Suss, 507-828-3377, tedsuss@gmail.com.

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Expo tent to display work on conservation technology tour

CTIC tour poster

More than 200 people from a multi-state area are expected to attend the eighth annual Conservation in Action Tour in southeast Minnesota Aug. 11-12. They will network and gain an up-close look at innovative practices and partnerships in conservation farming. To register, go to the online registration pageAt the opening social on Aug. 11 and throughout the Aug. 12 tour, you’ll be joined by farmers, agricultural retailers, government agency personnel, legislators, researchers, conservation group partners, and news media.

During the tour, you’ll meet a wide range of farmers and their partners committed to conservation agriculture. At the lunch stop Aug. 12, a large tent will house displays from numerous agencies and organizations. The MPCA display will feature the statewide nutrient reduction strategy and the watershed approach for water quality restoration and protection. Look for more information on the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) website

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Good turnout at LeSueur River Watershed Network paddle

lesueur river banks

On June 30, the LeSueur River Network had a very informative paddle and community meeting, with Patrick Belmont, associate professor of hydrology and geomorphology at Utah State University. More than 55 people came to discuss trends Belmont has seen in his research, and compare to what watershed residents are seeing in their backyards. Notes and pictures from the meeting will be available soon on lesueurriver.org.

On July 23, LeSueur River Network steering committee members will be tending an information table at the networking fair of the Minnesota River Congress in New Ulm. The Network has had a networking fair table at every Congress meeting so far. 

Photo above right: Le Sueur River Watershed Network members paddled a portion of the river from the boat access CR 16 to Red Jacket Trail. They passed bluffs that Patrick Belmont has been monitoring, and discussed the changes that have occurred over the last several years. 

Photo below: Le Sueur River Watershed Network members listen to Patrick Belmont, Associate Professor of Hydrology and Geomorphology at Utah State University, while paddling down the Le Sueur River from CR16 to Red Jacket Trail Park. Belmont describes trends being seen in his research in the Le Sueur River watershed. Network members discussed how those changes are related to existing land and water management, as well as increases in high intensity rain events.

lesueur river paddlers

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Webinar series begins July 22 on ag drainage management

Six one-hour webinars on ag drainage management will be held at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays: July 22, Aug. 19, Sept. 16, Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16. They will provide best management practices for improving drainage water quality and information from multiple states across the Midwest. Topics include:

  • Landscape-level nutrient reduction
  • Controlled drainage
  • Bioreactors
  • Saturated buffers
  • Wetlands
  • Sub-irrigation and the economics of drainage

Developed by a team of extension specialists from several Upper Midwest universities, they are structured to provide both the perspective of the farmer/practitioner and the research/extension specialist. The first webinar July 22 will feature Tim Smith, of Eagle Grove, Iowa and Wayne Anderson of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. They will present information on landscape-level nutrient reduction. 

To join the webinar log in at: https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/bcch/ and click the “Enter as a Guest” button. Full story on Iowa State University Extension webpage.

tim smith

Tim Smith (left) farms 800 acres near Eagle Grove in north-central Iowa. His crops are evenly split between corn and beans with 35 acres enrolled in CRP. In 2011, Tim became involved with the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative using 550 acres in the Boone River watershed. He uses cover crops, strip tillage, prairie strips, nutrient management practices and a woodchip bioreactor. He has begun doing nitrogen rate and nitrogen source comparisons.

wayne anderson

Wayne Anderson (right) has worked for the MPCA for 42 years. A registered professional engineer, he initially worked in the feedlot program and supervised the development of nonpoint source control program and watershed management assistance. He has been the state’s coordinating committee member for the National Gulf Hypoxia Task Force since its inception in 1997. Wayne is currently focusing on implementing effective solutions through the state’s clean water programs and serves as a strategy coordinator for Minnesota’s Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

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Lamberton field day shows value of boosting soil health

soil field day

A growing interest in the impact of tillage on soil health drew a large crowd of farmers, consultants, and conservation staff to a field day July 1 at the U of M Extension research facility near Lamberton. University researchers and educators talked about impacts of reduced tillage systems on production, soil structure, and soil biology. NRCS staff demonstrated the differences in infiltration and wind erosion between 'healthy' soil and soil harmed by excess tillage.

One cup of healthy soil holds an estimated nine billion microbes. Cover crops and reduced tillage build soil organic matter, which contributes to crop production by holding water in the soil structure. Available water is the limiting factor for increasing crop yields. Cover crops and improved soil health also contribute to less runoff carrying sediment and nitrogen into surface waters. Photo: NRCS staff demonstrated the infiltration difference between healthy and compacted soil. L-R: Jennifer Hahn, Brown County; Jeff Kjorness, Redwood County; Brian Pfarr, Redwood County.

Unlock the secrets of soil - NRCS

Don’t have time to sit down at a computer to hear from other farmers, ranchers and researchers about soil health topics? No problem. Load your audio device with these podcasts and listen when you’re driving in your pickup, tractor or combine. Check out the menu, and pick up an order of soil health audio “to go.” - NRCS website.

Mark your  calendar for upcoming soil-related events:

  • Sept. 10: Tillage technology and residue field day, 9 a.m., U of M-Morris. Brochure.
  • Dec. 15-16: Conservation tillage conference, Willmar. Details TBA.

Wind erosion demonstration

wind erosion demo
Brian Pfarr holds wind speed anemometer in a makeshift wind tunnel to demonstrate the difference in wind erosion on soil samples from healthy soil with high organic matter and pulverized, heavily-tilled soil. Airborne soil adhered to the adhesive-coated paper, which showed a significant difference between the two soil conditions.

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Volunteers help make State Fair Eco Experience a success

plastic bag tornado

If you're at the Minnesota State Fair Aug. 27-Sept. 7, be sure to visit the Eco Experience building on the north end. A fun and rewarding way to spend time at Eco Experience is to be a volunteer worker. Information on how to sign up will be posted on the volunteer webpage.

Eco Experience is filled with filled hands-on activities, demonstrations and resources in all areas of environmental stewardship. In 2013 Eco Experience won the fair's Peoples' Choice Award for Best Attraction. Last year it created and displayed a Guinness record: World's largest wad of paper - a visual representation of how much paper Minnesotans throw away in less than 30 seconds. The ball weighed 426 pounds, stood more than 9 feet high, and measured 32 feet around.

Sure to attract attention this year will be the plastic bag "tornado" (photo). More than 30 feet tall in the center of the building, the twirling tornado will educate about the need to reduce or recycle plastic shopping bags. Eco Experience is coordinated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency in partnership with a host of businesses and organizations.

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Watershed news briefs

Ostlie leaving Great River Greening for Minnesota Land Trust post

Wayne Ostlie is leaving Great River Greening as Director of Conservation Programs to become Director of Protection with the Minnesota Land Trust beginning July 27. "It has been an enjoyable ride here at Greening," Wayne says. "Working with you, we’ve achieved some great things in terms of restoring Minnesota’s land and water habitats, crafting/implementing strategies to empower local communities to participated in these efforts, and raising the funds to make it all happen." 

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