River Connections for April 2014

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River Connections

April 2014

MPCA taking proposals for Clean Water funding

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) opened the funding round April 28 for the state Clean Water Partnership Program and the Clean Water Fund. The agency will accept proposals through June 27 for nonpoint source pollution control project grants and loans.

The MPCA anticipates that about $1.1 million of grant funds and about $7 million of loan funds will be available this year. At least $2 million of the loan funds will be set aside for Green Infrastructure Reserve. These proposals provide permanent stormwater treatment by preserving or restoring the site’s natural hydrologic processes through green infrastructure projects such as, but not limited to:

  • Rain water harvesting and reuse;
  • Rain gardens;
  • Green roofs;
  • Tree boxes;
  • Porous pavement
  • Street and parking lot redesign; or
  • Similar green infrastructure approaches.

Flood control may be a component, but not the primary objective of a project under this green infrastructure reserve.

The nonpoint source pollution project must be categorized either as protection or restoration:

  • The proposer of a protection project will document that the water body(ies) being addressed is currently meeting state water quality standards for a particular pollutant, or has not been assessed by the MPCA but is otherwise known to be supporting beneficial uses. However, if a lake is listed as impaired due to a particular pollutant such as mercury, a sponsor can still develop a protection proposal addressing a condition that is not an impairment, such as phosphorus (nutrient) levels in the lake.
  • The proposer of a restoration project will document that the water body(ies) being addressed is impaired. These projects may or may not have a completed TMDL study or Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS).

Priority for funding will be given to protection projects, Green Infrastructure Reserve loan projects, and loan projects of at least $100,000 that are requesting up to $10,000 for grant to administer the loan. Project proposals must provide measurable project outcomes.

The complete Request for Proposal (RFP), proposal form, and other information are available on the state SWIFT e-supplier portal.  Prospective responders must have a SWIFT Vendor ID and Supplier Portal Account set up to apply. Please note that it can take up to four days to receive your vendor ID from SWIFT.  See this SWIFT message for more information. If you need assistance registering in the Supplier Portal so you can bid on this solicitation, you may contact the Minnesota Department of Administration, Materials Management Division at 651-201-8100, option 1. Then follow the prompts to connect you to the correct contact person.

Proposals must be electronically received through the state SWIFT supplier portal by 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, 2014. Proposals received after the deadline will not be considered. This date and all other information in this notice are subject to change and only up to date information will be found in the SWIFT Vendor ID and Supplier Portal Account.

Questions may be e-mailed to Contracts.pca@state.mn.us, Attention: Tracey Josephson. 

Most common stressors in Le Sueur watershed: Changes in hydrology, lack of habitat

Le Sueur River watershed stressor ID

Changes in hydrology and lack of habitat are the most common stressors to the biological communities (fish and bugs) in the Le Sueur River watershed, according to a report by the MPCA. The report also cites high nutrient and turbidity levels as major stresses to aquatic life. These stressors are interacting with each other and degrade the fish and bugs living in the streams and rivers in the Le Sueur River watershed.

This watershed in south-central Minnesota is home to several small cities and numerous species of wildlife and fish. The watershed’s wealth of lakes and streams is a valuable resource for aquatic recreation such as fishing and paddling. The water’s health is essential to human quality of life and to sustaining aquatic life.

The watershed covers 710,832 acres within the Minnesota River Basin. Water quality is important to local citizens as well those downstream. Several studies have shown that the Le Sueur is a major contributor of sediment – soil particles and other matter – to the Minnesota River and eventually the Mississippi.

The stressors result from the significant changes over the past 150 years. Since European settlement in the 1860s the watershed has undergone major land changes, including the plowing of its native prairies, harvesting of its hardwood forests, draining of its wetlands and modifications to its natural stream courses. Agriculture accounts for the majority of land use activities within the watershed. Farmland is highly tiled for drainage purposes. Climate change is worsening the impact of these changes.

The MPCA and several partners identified the stressors in the watershed following an intensive water monitoring and assessment effort, which is part of the state’s watershed approach to restoring and protecting Minnesota waters. This approach is a holistic way of gauging the health of streams and lakes, and developing strategies to restore or protect their water quality.

The report includes recommended actions to improve water quality in the Le Sueur watershed, namely improvements to water and sediment retention.

Look for the report, which will be posted soon, on the MPCA website.

Photo above shows monitoring near an erosion site on the Little Le Sueur River.

Reports finalized on bacteria in Cottonwood and Redwood River watersheds

Cottonwood River

Reports addressing pollution from bacteria in sections of the Redwood and Cottonwood Rivers in south central Minnesota have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Now that the reports have been finalized, state and local agencies will focus on projects to reduce the level of pollution.

The MPCA had placed the sections on the state’s impaired waters list for violating the water quality standard for fecal coliform (E. coli) bacteria. Called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL), the reports support on-going work in the watersheds to reduce bacteria pollution to an acceptable level.

Most bacteria are beneficial, serving as food for larger organisms, and playing key roles in decomposition of organic matter, fixation of nitrogen and digestion of food. However, about 10 percent are harmful. Known as pathogens, these bacteria can release toxins causing sickness or death if ingested by humans.

Sources of bacteria include failing or noncompliant septic systems, wastewater treatment plant bypasses, un-sewered communities, livestock manure from feedlots and land application, and stormwater from cities and commercial areas. Domestic pets and wildlife are lesser possible sources.

Efforts to reduce bacteria in surface waters can include upgrading individual sub-surface sewage treatment systems, ensuring compliance of wastewater treatment plants, implementing wastewater treatment in un-sewered communities, preventing runoff from livestock facilities, using proper manure land application procedures, and managing urban stormwater.

The Cottonwood River enters the Minnesota River near New Ulm. It drains a 1,313-square-mile area in sections of Lyon, Murray, Cottonwood, Redwood and Brown counties. Land use is primarily agricultural, accounting for approximately 88 percent of the available acres.

The Redwood River flows into the Minnesota River near Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota. There are eight municipal wastewater treatment plants in the watershed, which serve nearly 16,000 people. Agriculture accounts for approximately 85.5 percent of land use in the 705-square-mile watershed.

The TMDL reports are part of a nationwide effort under the federal Clean Water Act to identify and clean up pollution in streams, rivers and lakes. The TMDL is a scientific study that calculates the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive, known as the “loading capacity,” and still meet water quality standards.

 Copies of the reports are available on the MPCA’s website by searching for “Cottonwood River TMDL” and “Redwood River TMDL.”

A toast to the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act

Drinking water

The Minnesota Dept. of Health is marking the 40th anniversary of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act with a video program available online. In the program, former Vice President Walter Mondale talks about the fundamental change the law made in protecting the nation’s drinking water. “Safe drinking water is almost the first requirement of a prosperous community,” he says.

The Safe Drinking Water Act is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water. Under this law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for drinking water quality and oversees the states, localities, and water suppliers who implement those standards.

This law was originally passed by Congress in 1974 to protect public health by regulating the nation's public drinking water supply. The law was amended in 1986 and 1996 and requires many actions to protect drinking water and its sources: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells.

When Congress first took steps to ensure all U.S. residents had access to safe drinking water, Minnesota was already a leader in providing this necessity. The Legacy Amendment helps ensure that Minnesota will continue to protect its water resources, including drinking water. 

Workshops set for new online tool to identify wetland restoration areas

Wetland prioritization tool

Resource managers now have an online tool for identifying potential areas for wetland restoration. The MPCA contracted with the Natural Resource Research Institute (NRRI) to develop this wetland restoration prioritization tool. Wetlands retain water and provide a critical reduction in several pollutants. The goal of the new tool is to help watershed professionals target wetland areas for effective watershed restoration and protection.

Training workshops have been scheduled to help watershed managers and wetland restoration practitioners get the most from this new online tool. Space is limited so reserve your spot soon:

  • May 13: St Cloud: MnDOT Training Center, 3725 12th St. N., St. Cloud
  • May 20: St. Paul area: MnDOT Training and Conference Facility, 1900 County Road I West, Shoreview
  • May 21: Fergus Falls: Ottertail Power Community Room, 216 S. Cascade St., Fergus Falls

Each workshop will run 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.  There is no fee to attend the workshops, but lunch is on your own. To reserve a spot please contact Laura Dickison at the MPCA at 651-757-2689.

The Wetland Prioritization tool is available at https://beaver.nrri.umn.edu/MPCAWLPri/ . Note that full tool functionality is available using Firefox or Google Chrome internet browsers. Internet Explorer does not support all functions.

This tool has statewide data layer coverage and approaches wetland restoration prioritization using three primary decision layers:

  • An anthropogenic STRESS layer;
  • An estimated derived BENEFITS layer; and
  • A restoration success or VIABILITY layer.

Users control the importance of each of these three layers to scale down and select best regional restoration locations to best meet watershed challenges.  The three decision layers can be applied to address Phosphorus, Nitrogen or Habitat interests. 

Minnesota River Congress June 19 in New Ulm

The first Minnesota River Congress will be held on Thursday, June 19, at Turner Hall in New Ulm. The purpose of the Congress is to bring together all interested parties in the Minnesota River basin to chart a path forward to continue building a broad-based citizen and government partnership entity to preserve and improve natural resource conditions in the basin. Activities and entertainment will begin at 1 p.m. The main Congress will begin at 5:30 p.m. It is being hosted by Citizens for a Clean Minnesota River and other co-sponsors.

The first Congress meeting will review and discuss the current status of agricultural, conservation, preservation, economic, and other activities in the Minnesota River basin. It will solicit ideas and suggestions to form the basis of an ongoing Minnesota River strategy, establish a list of priority actions targeted on moving a Minnesota River strategy forward, and create a charge and plan for implementing as much of what is decided. A follow-up Congress would be convened in the fall to review the actions and steps resulting from the first congress, and to move forward as appropriate.

An announcement and invitations for the Congress will be sent early in May. It is hoped that several hundred people will attend, representing the entire range of public and private organizations, and individuals committed to creating a comprehensive partnership in the basin, following the dissolution of the Minnesota River Board.

Workshop to focus on ag drainage and water quality future

State and local partners will present “Agricultural Drainage and the Future of Water Quality” on June 26 from 7:15 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Verizon Wireless Center in Mankato. This workshop will kick off at 7:15 a.m. that Thursday with breakfast.  The indoor session will include panel discussions, speakers and breakout sessions until 2:30 p.m., followed by an optional tour of the Blue Earth County Ditch 57 project near Mapleton in the Le Sueur River watershed.

Topics include drainage water management, law change updates, and in-field techniques for water quality. Sponsoring the workshop are Blue Earth County, I + S Group, Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture and Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources. To register, contact Kelli Renstrom at kelli.renstrom@is-grp.com or 507-387-6651.