River Connections for September 2014

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River Connections

September 2014

Small town, big project: Reducing pollutants going to Blue Earth River

The small town of Winnebago is taking on a big project that will benefit the Blue Earth River along with the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers downstream.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently approved a Clean Water Partnership award for the project: $1 million in loan funds and $10,000 in grant funds. Winnebago, located in Faribault County along the southern Minnesota border, will use the award toward a $5 million green infrastructure project to reduce the volume of water and pollutants going to the Blue Earth River. This river is one of the highest contributors of pollutants to the Minnesota River.

Winnebago, population 1,437, plans to reconstruct its streets in a 25-block area, which makes up about 20 percent of the town, according to city administrator Chris Ziegler. The project will include disconnecting illegal connections to the municipal wastewater system, building a special pond to hold stormwater and let pollutants settle out, and planting rain gardens and boulevard swales to capture and filter stormwater.

The Winnebago project follows a Faribault County Soil and Water Conservation District effort to educate communities about the need to reduce urban runoff, a major contributor of sediment, nutrients, toxic chemicals, bacteria, litter and other pollutants to lakes and rivers. The district also received a Clean Water Partnership grant of $300,000 for reducing pollutants going to the Blue Earth River.

Altogether, the MPCA approved 10 projects totaling $1.26 million in grants and $2.4 million in loans from the Clean Water Partnership program. Funding is provided by the Minnesota Legislature and the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.

Other recipients in the Minnesota and Mississippi River basins include:

  • Hawk Creek Watershed Project, $242,587 grant for "Renville County Minnesota River-Mankato Watershed Protection"
  • Buffalo Creek Watershed District, $10,000 grant and $294,540 loan for the "Buffalo Creek - Marsh Water Project"
  • Sauk River Watershed District, $268,000 grant and $150,000 loan for "Middle Sauk River Targeted Reduction and Outreach"
  • Renville County, $10,000 grant and $950,000 loan for the "Middle Minnesota Watershed SSTS Loan Project"

The next funding round is scheduled to open this winter. Check the MPCA website for updates.

Wanted: Water quality data on Minnesota, Watonwan rivers

The MPCA is asking for your data to help assess the condition of our lakes and streams and build a national database of water quality.

The agency is specifically interested in the following priority watersheds because MPCA staff will be determining whether these water bodies meet state water quality standards in early 2015:

Grants available for water quality projects
  • Two Rivers
  • Snake River
  • Lake Superior – North
  • Rum River
  • Mississippi River – Headwaters
  • Minnesota River – Mankato
  • Watonwan River

The agency is also looking for:

  • Data on the Mississippi River from the headwaters to St. Anthony Falls.
  • E. coli data for these large rivers: Minnesota, Rainy, Red, St. Croix, and Mississippi.
  • E. coli data for Lake Superior public beaches.
  • Toxics data -- nitrates, pesticides, trace metals, and mercury – for streams throughout Minnesota.

If you have data from outside a priority watershed or one of these areas, the MPCA will also accept it. The agency will use additional data to:

  • Help plan for future monitoring efforts including what to monitor for and where to monitor.
  • Identify pollutant “stressors” that are causing or contributing to problems or threats to fishing, swimming, and recreational uses.
  • Evaluate the success of ongoing activities to protect and restore water quality.

Deadline: Submit project, lab, and field data now through Nov. 3, 2014.

Deadline: By Dec.15, 2014 you will need to review the data entered.

Find out more on the MPCA's surface water data website.

Your role in collecting these data is important to Minnesota’s effort to identify impaired waters, as well as those waters in need of additional protection.

For more information on submitting data:

  • Nancy Flandrick, 651-757-2361 (St. Paul, Rochester, and Mankato Regional Offices)
  • Jean Garvin, 651-757-2378 (Willmar, Marshall, and Detroit Lakes Regional Offices)
  • Lynda Nelson, 651-757-2601 (Duluth and Brainerd Regional Offices)

For more information about how the MPCA uses your data to assess lakes and streams see the MPCA’s water quality assessment website.

Le Sueur River watershed network endorses Bull Run Creek watershed project application

lesueur watershed project

The Le Sueur River Watershed Network potluck and meeting Aug. 25 attracted 45 people to St. Olaf Lake Park in New Richland. Participants learned about conservation practices designed to improve water quality, and shared food and conversation about ways to work together. They collectively endorsed an application for funding designed to help local landowners and farmers install structures and practices leading to increased water quality.

Waseca County farmer Carl Guse introduced the group to the practices and structures he has been discussing with Mark Dittrich of the Dept. of Agriculture. Leon Schoenrock, Waseca County farmer and member of the network’s steering committee, gave an update on the Bull Run Creek project application, and explained how a letter of support from the network would strengthen the application. The project would provide funds to alleviate landowner costs for water storage structures and other improvements that would reduce sediment in Bull Run Creek and the larger Le Sueur River watershed. The meeting wrapped up with a discussion and the signing of a letter of endorsement for the Bull Run Creek Watershed Project application to Board of Soil and Water Resources.

Meeting attendees were in consensus that the network should support efforts that are aligned with the network’s seven recommendations for cleaner water and river health they worked to formulate over the past two years. For more information about the Le Sueur River Watershed Network's upcoming meetings and their seven recommendations, visit www.lesueurriver.org. (Photo: Le Sueur River Watershed Steering Committee members discuss the changes that local farmer Carl Guse has seen on his land, and the obstacles he has experienced while exploring the options available to help him improve water quality on his property.)

Minnesota River Congress wraps up regional meetings

A series of regional meetings to discuss the idea of creating some form of basin-wide entity focusing on the Minnesota River watershed wrapped up Wednesday, Sept. 17, at Jackpot Junction near Redwood Falls. A total of more than 100 people attended the regional meetings in Montevideo, Fairmont, Henderson, Bloomington, and Jackpot. The meetings opened with brief overviews by Scott Sparlin and Ted Suss, followed by small group discussion of a set of five questions focusing on the need for a basin-wide entity, what it could do for existing organizations, and specific projects or tasks. 

Discussion leaned in favor of creating a citizen-led entity to foster communication and collaboration among the scores of organizations working in the basin, with a primary focus on the health of the land and water. Among countervailing points, the basin is too large and diverse, the issues are too political, and there are enough organizations already. Information gathered will be brought to the second Minnesota River congress meeting scheduled Oct. 30 in New Ulm. All are welcome to attend, including organizations participating with table displays similar to the first congress. 

Agencies roll out 'Minnesota's Clean Water Roadmap'

Environmental Initiative and the seven state agencies responsible for implementing the Clean Water Fund have completed "Minnesota's Clean Water Roadmap." The roadmap articulates high-level goals for the 25 years of the Clean Water Legacy investment. In combination with other, including local water plans, the agencies will use the roadmap to guide their activities under the Clean Water Fund to protect and restore Minnesota's water resources. The roadmap is posted on the MPCA website. The agencies will be presenting the roadmap Oct. 20 at the Clean Water Council meeting.

Watershed network fall meeting Nov. 18 in New Ulm

The 12th semi-annual Watershed Network meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the New Ulm Pizza Ranch. The program is still being developed, and suggestions are welcome for topics and speakers. Topics at past meetings are archived on the recently re-designed Watershed Network web page. Please send any comments or program ideas to Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972. The network enhances communication and learning among watershed professional staff; it provides a monthly e-newsletter and hosts meetings in the spring and fall.