Watershed Connections - January 2016

Watershed Connections

January 2016

Big response to Feb. 27 water summit registration, survey

water summit logo

About 2,700 responses have been received in an online survey leading up to the Governor’s Water Summit Saturday, Feb. 27, at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront. Registration filled quickly for the event focusing on the state’s water resources. Further registrations will be placed on a waiting list.

The summit will focus public attention on the serious challenges facing Minnesota’s water supplies – in both rural and urban areas of the state – and continue statewide dialogue around steps that must be taken to address those challenges. It will bring together water quality experts, farmers, legislators, regulators, the business community, members of the public, local leaders, and a wide variety of other stakeholders.

The online survey is still open, and everyone is encouraged to take the survey regardless of whether they plan to attend. The information and input gathered from this survey will help inform the Administration and Legislature on Minnesota’s water quality challenges and possible solutions.

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Minnesota River Congress organized, ready to launch March 10

MN River congress logo

The sixth Minnesota River Congress will be held Thursday, March 10 at the New Ulm Event Center, 301 20th St. So., New Ulm. The citizen-led group focusing on the natural resource and economic health of the Minnesota River basin will take action on bylaws, remaining board elections, and annual meeting date. The measures were advanced by the Congress Action Board meeting Jan. 26 in New Ulm.

“We’ve come a long way since the first Congress back in June of 2014,” said Scott Sparlin, of the Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River and Congress facilitator. “After the old Minnesota River Board disbanded, a lot of people still believed that we needed some type of group focused on the entire Minnesota River basin.”

Since the first Congress, accomplishments include: Conducting five well-attended Congress meetings, six regional listening sessions, creating an Action Board, identifying specific interest areas and recruiting participants, and incorporation as a non-profit organization.

Current Action Board vacancy categories include: one additional Soil and Water Conservation District representative, Native American communities (two), Minnesota River headwaters, Pomme de Terre River, and Dept. of Transportation. More information about the Congress including a list of Action Board categories is available online at www.watershedalliance.blogspot.com/.

At the fifth meeting Nov. 12, 2015 the Congress voted to support proposed legislation (Senate File 2204) creating a Minnesota River Commission. “While we have offered conditional support, we are emphasizing that this is separate from the Congress,” Sparlin said. “We have heard of opposition to the proposed bill from some existing groups, and want to make sure that this is not confused with the Congress.”

More details about the sixth Congress March 10 will be announced later. The schedule for the previous meetings included a ‘networking fair’ starting at 4 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m., and the Congress meeting at 7 p.m. For more information contact Scott Sparlin, 507-276-2280, sesparlin@gmail.com.

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Hawk Creek watershed WRAPS workshop draws a big crowd

Hawk WRAPS meeting

The fourth workshop for the Hawk Creek WRAPS project drew nearly 80 participants, many grower-members of the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Co-op. Since most had not attended the previous three meetings, the Jan. 27 meeting at the Clara City community center began with an overview of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy, and a video with farmer and soil health advocate Gabe Brown.

Attendees provided input to a variety of questions using the electronic ‘clicker’ survey keypads. Issues receiving strong support included: Farm groups as leaders, demonstration projects, and more networking between agency staff and farmers.

With pollutant reduction targets set at past workshops, this meeting collected ideas and input about the best tools to use. The Hawk Creek WRAPS report is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Everyone is invited to the Hawk Creek Watershed Project annual meeting Feb. 24 in Willmar at the MinnWest Technology Campus. There will be a review of Hawk Creek projects, and a presentation by Don Reicosky, a soil health expert recently retired from the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Morris. To RSVP contact Heidi Rauenhorst, Hawk Creel Watershed Project coordinator, 320-523-3666, heidi@hawkcreekwatershed.org.

Photo: Joanne Boettcher of of the MPCA Mankato office leads the Hawk Creek watershed meeting and will be writing the WRAPS report.

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Cannon River group wrapping up meetings on WRAPS

Cannon River WRAPS meeting 2015

The Cannon River Watershed Partnership will wrap up its series of meetings on Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) on Feb. 17, from 9 a.m.-noon, at South Central Technical College in Faribault. This meeting will conclude a 9-month process to gather input from citizens and watershed professionals (photo at right).

Content of the draft WRAPS document will be available for review and comment at the meeting, along with content of the draft Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) reports for various lakes and streams. An official public notice will follow this spring, providing additional time to comment on the draft documents.

Notes and presentations from the series of meetings are available on the CRWP’s website.

The Cannon River watershed is located south of the Twin Cities and encompasses areas of Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Steele, Rice and Waseca counties. The watershed drains about 1,460 square miles through two main channels, the Cannon and Straight Rivers, to the Mississippi at Red Wing. It includes 90 lakes and 107 wetlands of 10 acres or more in size. More than 70% of the land area is in cultivation.

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Conferences focus on nitrogen, crop nutrient management

Cropland a major source of nitrates in waters

The Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center (MAWRC) will host two conferences focusing on nutrient management during February. Both conferences will highlight recent advances in effective and economical nutrient management presented by University of Minnesota researchers, fertilizer industry experts and state agency officials.

The first event, the 8th annual Crop Nutrient Management Conference, will be held on Feb. 9 at Jackpot Junction near Morton. The conference program will focus on nitrogen and phosphorus management with significant emphasis on water quality considerations. In 2016, fertilizer expenditures will be a major cost of production. This conference will also focus on economical fertilizer programs. 

The second event, the second annual Nitrogen: Minnesota’s Grand Challenge & Compelling Opportunity Conference, will be held on Feb. 23 at the International Event Center in Rochester. This conference will focus more specifically on nitrogen management and water quality issues.

Farmers, crop advisors and other nutrient management professionals are encouraged and invited to attend. The ongoing importance of efficient use of applied crop nutrients relating to farm profitability and food production economics combines with growing interest in the environment.

Both conferences provide opportunities for Continuing Education Units to be earned by Certified Crop Advisors. More information and the full agendas can be found at http://www.mawrc.org/events.html.

These conferences are sponsored by the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture, U of M Extension, along with numerous agricultural businesses and organizations. For a full list of sponsors, and to see the entire conference program, go to www.mawrc.org/events.html.

Registration for each event is $20, which can be paid on-line at the time of registration or at the door. You can register at www.mawrc.org/events.html. To register by phone, or for more information, call Dr. George Rehm at 507-263-9127, or Dr. Fabian Fernandez at 612-625-7460.  

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Lamberton to host 'findings and recommendations for Corn Belt farmers'

ohio cornfield

The Heron Lake Watershed District (HLWD) and Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA) will be hosting "Findings and Recommendations for Corn Belt Farmers" on Thursday, Feb. 11, 1-3 p.m. at the Southwest Research and Outreach Center, 23669 130th St., Lamberton. The event will highlight findings and recommendations from the Sustainable Corn project. A webinar is also available at www.sustainablecorn.org. Photo: Ohio corn field on Sustainable Corn webpage.

Speakers and topics include: Eileen Klavidko, Purdue University – cover crops; Rick Cruse, Iowa State University (ISU) – tillage management; Jeff Strock, University of Minnesota – drainage water management; Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin – extended crop rotations; and J. Arbuckle, ISU – farmer adaptation and conservation practice adoption.

The Sustainable Corn Project is funded by a grant from the USDA and is formally known as the Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems Coordinated Agricultural Project. The project began in 2011 and convened teams from 10 land-grant universities in the Corn Belt. The researchers studied farm practices at 35 field sites in nine states and gathered information from thousands of Midwestern farmers, with the goal of creating a suite of farm management practices that would provide resilience in times of drought, reduce soil and nutrient losses under saturated soil conditions, decrease field nitrogen losses, retain carbon in the soil, and ensure crop and soil productivity.

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MPCA reviving TMDL study for Lake Pepin

Lake Pepin

Now that a custom water quality standard is in place for Lake Pepin, the MPCA is working again on the Lake Pepin TMDL for nutrients. The custom or site-specific standard is designed to prevent harmful algal blooms in the lake.

Lake Pepin, a natural lake, is the widest part of the Mississippi River, bordered by Minnesota on the west and Wisconsin on the east. It is located about 60 miles downstream of St. Paul, just south of the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. The lake is 21 miles long, averages 1.7 miles wide and covers 29,295 acres. It has a maximum depth of 60 feet and an average depth of 21 feet.

About 48,634 square miles – roughly half of Minnesota’s total land area plus a small portion of Wisconsin – including the Upper Mississippi, St. Croix and Minnesota rivers, drain into the Lake Pepin.

Lake Pepin was originally part of a combined TMDL study with the South Metro Mississippi that is impaired by total suspended solids. The agency spilt the study at the recommendation of stakeholders and science advisers. While the South Metro Mississippi study proceeded and recently went to the EPA for approval, the agency suspended work on the Lake Pepin TMDL while developing a site-specific standard for the lake. The EPA approved the research-based standard, and after a legal challenge, the state of Minnesota adopted it in 2014. The new standard for Lake Pepin to prevent harmful algal blooms is:

  • 100 micrograms per liter for total phosphorus; and
  • 28 micrograms per liter for chlorophyll-a

The MPCA believes these criteria will provide protection of aquatic recreational uses for Lake Pepin and the downstream river pools, and should be applicable over the range of flows for which the criteria were developed.

For perspective, the average level of total phosphorus in Lake Pepin from 2000-2009 was 171 micrograms per liter. Reductions in wastewater phosphorus loading over this same period resulted in Mississippi River concentrations approaching 150 micrograms per liter in 2009. From 2000-2009, the average of chlorophyll-a was 30 micrograms per liter.

Achieving the site-specific standard for Lake Pepin will require reductions in phosphorus and chlorophyll export in upstream watersheds. The TMDL study will also address sections of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers that impact Lake Pepin.

“We have a wealth of technical information and a wealth of stakeholder input. The intent now is to synthesize all the information and input into one document for review,” said Justin Watkins, MPCA watershed project manager.

Look to future editions of Watershed Connections for more information as the study progresses.

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Board of Water and Soil Resources annual reports due Feb. 1

Annual reports from those receiving funds from the Board of Water and Soil Resources are due Feb. 1. In addition to reporting of grant expenditures, measurable outcomes and activities in calendar year 2015, and final reporting for grants that expired on Dec. 31, 2015, a number of annual program activity reports are also due. More details on which reports are subject to this deadline, as well as details about non-eLINK reporting, can be found in the 2015 Year End Reporting edition of the Grants Quarterly. Resources to assist in eLINK reporting can be found on the Reporting page of the BWSR website, and include:

eLINK guidance documents and a video module on progress reporting are available on the eLINK page of BWSR’s website.

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