Watershed Connections - April 2016

Watershed Connections

April 2016

Schottler: Economics primary path for improving water quality

schottler at cwrp meeting

Perhaps best known for his research on the sources and fate of sediment impairing water quality, Dr. Shawn Schottler also recognizes the basic role of economics in the challenge of improving and protecting water quality. Without a market incentive for agriculture landowners to use cover crops, perennials, and other BMPs for water quality, we will not progress toward achieving water quality goals, Schottler says. "Markets are the biggest possibility for changing water quality," he said, speaking April 7 at the Chippewa River Watershed Project annual meeting in Starbuck. "If we don't do this, we can't get there." (Photo: Shawn Schottler, center, talks with Duane Ninneman of CURE, and Terry Vanderpol of Land Stewardship Project).

'We must create markets for perennials'

Despite spending billions of dollars in recent decades, there has been little overall improvement in water quality, Schottler says. "It's all about economics. We must create markets for perennials." More regulation is technologically cumbersome and expensive, he says. Instead, there could be markets created for biomass, or incentives for conservation linked to crop insurance, Schottler says. "Improving water quality is only possible through farmers, and they will grow what is profitable. The public needs to support the markets that have water quality benefits." Schottler does water quality research at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station of the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Perennial biomass bill

Reported April 8 in Farmers' Union legislative notes: The House Ag Finance Committee heard and laid over HF 2881 authored by Rep. Clark Johnson that establishes a program to compensate landowners who grow perennial crops either for livestock feed or for use by a facility that produces electricity, advanced biofuel, renewable chemicals, or biomass thermal energy from the perennial crops. The bill also requires the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to deliver a feasibility study and program plan to the legislature. MFU is a part of the BioEconomy Coalition which has been working on and supporting this bill. Sen. Matt Schmit is the Senate author. More info on Coalition here: http://mnbioeconomy.org/

greg vold - dorrich dairy

Farmers describe efforts with cover crops, perennials

A panel of area farmers participating in the Chippewa 10 percent project, described their efforts to use cover crops, perennials and conservation tillage at the April 7 CRWP meeting. John Ledermann farms 1,000 acres where he is working to use cover crops. Greg Vold of Dorrich Dairy described their efforts with cover crops, crop rotation, and precision fertilizer management. The dairy was featured in the June 2015 edition of Feedlot Update. (Photo left to right: Greg Vold, 10 percent project coordinator Robin Moore, and John Ledermann).

In a brief update on the CRWP, director Kylene Olson reported that since 2001 more than 500 landowners have participated in about 750 best management practice projects. She said the CRWP is helping to develop and water and land use 'ethic' that was encouraged by Gov. Mark Dayton at the Feb 27 'water summit'. 

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Groups engage citizens in creating a 'water ethic'

peg furshong - water ethic

In response to a request from Gov. Dayton, groups have hosted meetings recently to engage citizens in creating a 'water ethic'. Clean Up the River Environment and Land Stewardship Project hosted meetings in Renville and Northfield. The effort will establish the moral and ethical foundations to guide decision-making around the use of water and the protection/stewardship of water basins and water resilient ecosystems. (Photo: Peg Furshong, CURE executive director, shows a graphic depiction of ideas generated at the meetings. She talked about the project at the Watershed Network spring meeting April 21 in Redwood Falls.)

More on the CURE website: "It is our intent that a water ethic for Minnesota, created by a broad community, will engender water policies and practices that are environmentally sustainable, economically responsible, socially just, respectful of culture and spiritual diversity, respectful of biological diversity, and that it must ultimately safeguard the welfare of future generations, states an article on the CURE website. We hope to begin the co-creation of a new, community-based set of beliefs that will guide our state’s water practices that are truly rooted in the wisdom, values and experience of those alertly living in, working on and caring for our land and water." More.

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Walkers along Minnesota River highlight need for clean water

nibi walk

Adapted from a March 30 report on Minnesota Public Radio: "The river, she doesn't do anything, except flow," said Ojibwe elder Sharon Day. "And it's we humans that pollute her. So we're the only ones that can clean it up." To highlight the problems, Day led a group of activists walking the length of the Minnesota River March 25-April 1, hoping to add a spiritual motivation to improve the waterway. A few years back she walked the length of the Mississippi River.

On each trip the group carries a bucket of water dipped at the source of the river. When the bucket is emptied into the more polluted river at the end of the journey, Day says the act sends a message. The 300-mile walk's primary message to Minnesotans, Day says, is "don't take water for granted." Their trek started in Ortonville near Big Stone Lake, the river's source, and ended near Fort Snelling, at the Minnesota-Mississippi confluence. More information about the walk is online at nibiwalk.org. (Photo: Jackson Forderer for MPR NewsSharon Day walks along Highway 68 near Courtland March 29 with Frankie Jackson. Day is carrying water from the headwaters of the Minnesota River to its meeting point with the Mississippi River. Jackson is carrying a staff that's for protecting the water carrier.) 

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Brian Wojtalewicz receives CURE RiverKeeper award

brian wojtalewicz

The CURE Board of Directors has chosen Brian Wojtalewicz of Appleton as this year's RiverKeeper. He received the award at CURE's 24th Annual Membership Meeting April 23 in Morris. The theme for the day was Act on Minnesota Water, with popular education, grassroots action, business, and celebration.

First awarded in 1994, the RiverKeeper goes to an individual(s), organization or government agency who has worked in an exemplary manner to carry out CURE's mission "to focus public awareness on the Minnesota River Basin and to take action to restore and protect its water quality, biological integrity, and natural beauty for all generations". More about Brian Wojtalewicz. (Photo by Brad Fernholz.)

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Earth Day festival at Prairie Woods ELC features groundwater

earth day 2016

The annual Earth Day festival Saturday drew a large crowd of all ages to Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center near Spicer. This year's festival featured a puppet show of “The Lorax” by Dr. Suess. Mark Hauck, groundwater expert with the Dept. of Natural Resources, talked about the importance of healthy groundwater. With the Dr. Seuss-inspired slogan “Glup glup, what’s up with the water in your cup?,” visitors brought private well water samples for nitrate tests using equipment from the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture.

Along with Prairie Woods, the event is sponsored by the Crow River Organization of Water, Middle Fork Crow River Watershed District, Kandiyohi Soil and Water Conservation District, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, North Fork Crow River Watershed District, REDstar Creative, Jennie-O-Turkey Store, Minnesota Dairy Association, Minnesota Pork Producers, Cash Wise Foods, Cub Foods, and the Youth Energy Summit. (Photo: Mark Hauck demonstrates the groundwater model.)

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Coming to a screen near you: Training for water monitoring

With several different partners and 200 sites across Minnesota, the Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network strives to ensure consistency and accuracy in its water monitoring. Staffing often changes on the local level, meaning monitors may have not been trained on equipment or many months have passed since they conducted monitoring. To help partners learn and stay current on techniques, including the basics, the MPCA has produced the following training videos, available on YouTube:

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Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network

River Steward Natalie Warren to paddle the Yukon River

natalie warren

Reported in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 3/24/16: Natalie Warren is now a 'river steward' employed by the St. Croix River Association through a three-year state grant. She will work with landowners, real estate developers and local governments to explain land-use regulations before misunderstandings turn into confrontations. In May, she will be on a team of six women that will paddle the Yukon River in Alaska for 444 miles nonstop, trying to beat a 39-hour record.

Warren, 27, doesn’t just talk about rivers. She practically lives on them. A saxophone student at an arts high school in downtown Miami, Warren came to Minnesota to study environmental policy at St. Olaf College in Northfield. In 2011 she and a friend paddled more than 2,000 miles on the Minnesota and Red rivers, among others, from Fort Snelling to Hudson Bay, Manitoba, and in 2013 she paddled the length of the Mississippi River. She is a co-founder of Wild River Academy. Recently she was named to the DNR Water Trails Citizen Advisory Committee. (Minneapolis Star Tribune photo) Full story. 

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MPCA, partners on track for monitoring all MN watersheds

The MPCA and local partners have completed intensive water monitoring in 69 of Minnesota’s 80 watersheds (86%), according to the agency’s dashboard. The MPCA dashboard tracks environmental and performance measures related to the agency’s work. Metrics include measures of air pollutants, water restoration, polluted land cleanup, and how quickly permits are issued.

As far as lakes and streams, assessment is complete in 49 or 61% of watersheds with projects to restore and protect waters underway in all 80 watersheds. However, progress continues to be slow for restoring lakes and streams, with cleanup projects expensive and taking years to see results. In general, 60% of lakes and streams meet water quality standards designed to protect public health, recreational use, and aquatic life.

For more statistics on how the MPCA is doing, see the agency’s 2016 dashboard on its website.

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BWSR seeks comments on buffer, soil loss program plan


The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is seeking public comment on key components of its Buffer and Excessive Soil Loss programs. The Requests for Comment and supporting documents are available on the BWSR Buffer Program website: http://bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers/ and include specific questions related to program development. BWSR is looking for feedback on:

  • Program timeline
  • Technical aspects of the program
  • Administrative processes‘Other Waters’ – waters not covered under the DNR’s mapping process as determined by the local soil and water conservation district
  • Process for the Soil Erosion law implementation

The BWSR board will review draft policy and guidance for the buffer program at its June 2016 Board meeting. The Soil Loss program will undergo rulemaking in the fall. For information on the DNR Buffer Mapping Project, visit http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/buffers/index.html.

Information and comments on buffer and soil loss program implementation will be accepted until 4:30 p.m. on May 4, 2016. Comments may be submitted via email to buffers.bwsr@state.mn.us or via U.S. mail to David Weirens, Asst. Director for Programs and Policy, BWSR, 520 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155. 

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BWSR recognizes 61st Soil and Water Stewardship Week

The Board of Water and Soil Resources celebrates Soil and Water Stewardship Week, April 24-May 1, 2016. It recognizes the work of Minnesota’s 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts. For more than 70 years, SWCDs have worked hard for our soil, water and wildlife, managing programs that work toward the conservation and healthy use and development of our natural resources.

“Soil and Water Conservation Districts play a unique role because they provide soil and water conservation services to private landowners at a local level,” says LeAnn Buck, Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Executive Director.  “Seventy-eight percent of Minnesota’s lands are private, and helping to increase conservation efforts on those lands is essential to keeping Minnesota’s natural resources healthy and strong.” This is the 61st annual Soil and Water Stewardship Week, organized by the National Association of Conservation Districts.

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DNR holding workshop on stream restoration

The Dept. of Natural Resources will hold a workshop July 25-29 in Fergus Falls on the Fundamentals of Stream Restoration: Applied Geomorphology and Ecology. Rivers and streams are formed by physical processes that define their geometry and quality and quantity of habitat. Hydrology, geomorphology, biology, water quality, and connectivity interact to determine the overall health of the stream.

The course will discuss the interactions between geomorphology and ecology in the context of ecosystem health. Attendees develop the skills for field determination of bankfull stage, geometry and stream type, which are essential to stream assessment and restoration. This workshop is the first in the DNR’s Stream Restoration Series and is a prerequisite to the three advanced courses. Cost is $1,000 per participant. See the DNR workshops webpage for details.

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BWSR seeks Hydrologist 3 in southern region

The Board of Water and Soil Resources-Southern Region is currently seeking to fill a Clean Water Specialist-Hydrologist 3 position in Marshall or New Ulm. Current state employees can locate the position announcement by searching the Job ID 4766 on Employee Self Service - Click Here. All other applicants should apply through the Minnesota Management and Budget Careers website: http://mn.gov/mmb/careers/ . The position is open for all applicants through May 9, 2016. For more information contact Jeff Nielsen, jeff.nielsen@state.mn.us, 507-359-6075. Job Announcement.

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Filing for SWCD supervisor candidates open May 17-31

Minnesota citizens interested in influencing natural resources issues at the local level are encouraged to run for supervisor of their local Soil and Water Conservation District. SWCD supervisor positions are filled through general elections which will take place on Nov. 8. Those interested in running for Supervisor should file at the County Auditor’s office from May 17 through May 31. 

Supervisors meet monthly to discuss the business of the SWCD, including state grant allocations to landowners, district conservation priorities, coordination with other local units of government and state and federal agencies. Supervisors do not receive a salary, although they do receive compensation for attending meetings and are reimbursed for expenses. Contact your local County SWCD for more information SWCD Directory.

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