Watershed Connections - August 2016

Watershed Connections

August 2016

Soybean Growers publish WRAPS handbook for farmers

WRAPS handbook cover

The Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council has published a handbook for farmers about the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy program. Water quality is a major concern in Minnesota. The state has 80 major watersheds and is developing WRAPS for all of those major watersheds with the goal of water quality standards that meet total maximum daily loads of pollutants in Minnesota waters.

Farmers have a big role to play in how the WRAPS process plays out, but the process can be overwhelming and at times intimidating. That’s why the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council worked with Houston Engineering Inc. to develop a handbook to guide WRAPS participants through the process. "Everything you need to know in one convenient place. Now that’s using your bean." WRAPS Handbook.

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Minnesota River Congress seeks policy ideas from existing groups

MN River congress logo

The Minnesota River Congress will be hosting meetings in six communities to inventory policies among the scores of groups and individuals working for the economic and natural resource health of the river basin. This will guide the Congress as it develops a public statement of policies and actions. “We are asking everyone interested to attend one of six meetings in the Minnesota Basin and submit those items you feel are appropriate for inclusion in our final statement and agenda,” says Scott Sparlin, Congress facilitator. The following meetings will start at 7 p.m.:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 23, Fairmont: Knights of Columbus Hall, 920 East 10th St.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 6, Mankato: Good Council Academy, 170 Good Council Dr., Room 005.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 13, New Auburn: New Auburn City Hall 8303 8th Ave.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 14, Bloomington: Minnesota Valley Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, 6601 Auto Club Road.
  • Tuesday, Sep. 20, Granite Falls: Granite Falls Lutheran Church, 350 9th Ave.
  • Thursday, Sept 22, Morton: Jackpot Junction 39375 Co. Rd. 24, 2nd floor ballroom. 

The eventual Congress public policy statement and agenda will be approved at the seventh full Minnesota River congress meeting Thursday, Nov. 17. The location will be announced later. “We need everyone’s help to build the Congress policy and agenda,” says Sparlin. “Please submit items that have a basin-wide and significant impact. Items that call for specific and measurable action by the Minnesota River Congress. And please submit items that include background information supporting the policy you are advocating.” submit your resolutions electronically via email by Sept. 10 to, sesparlin@gmail.com.

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Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit at St. Peter through Sept. 25

nicollet county history center

The second stop for the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit opened Aug. 13 at the Nicollet County Historical Society and runs through Sept. 25. The exhibit at the Treaty Site History Center also includes exhibits about water on loan from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Health. Weekly events will feature documentaries about water, paddles on the Minnesota River and Swan Lake, tours of local water treatment plants, water chakra yoga classes and more. Community partners include the Department of Natural Resources, the Arts Center of St. Peter, and Gustavus Adolphus College.

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Eco Experience goes big with Paul Bunyan exhibit at State Fair

Eco Experience

Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair is going big this year with a Paul Bunyan exhibit to call attention a giant sized waste problem. Minnesotans throw away nearly 12 grocery carts of clothing and textiles every MINUTE. Check it out, along with other interactive displays, during the 12 days of the Minnesota State Fair: Aug. 25 - Sept. 5, daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It's the MPCA’s premier outreach opportunity, and this year offers many new exhibits including:

  • A living greenwall more than 14-feet long created by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls highlights study findings that show foliage can positively impact college students’ wellbeing and academic performance.
  • The elegant, solar-powered “Getaway Tiny House” features a lofted sleeping and seating area.
  • Turn the pages and take a photo of a 7-foot pop-up book. Catch a story on reuse, recycle and repair.

A partnership between the Minnesota State Fair, the MPCA, and more than 150 organizations and businesses across the state, the Eco Experience has become the second most visited exhibit at the fair. The Eco Experience is the largest environmental event of its kind, nationally, in the last two decades. In 2013 the Eco Experience won the People’s Choice Award voted on by the fair goers at the Minnesota State Fair. Since 2006, more than 3.2 million visitors have attended the 25,000-square-foot exhibit to learn more about clean air and water, saving energy, climate change, recycling, healthy local food, gardening, transportation, green building and remodeling, and other ways to lead more eco-friendly lives.

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Yellow Medicine SWCD sets buffer law meetings Aug. 30-31

The Yellow Medicine SWCD will be hosting for information meetings on the new buffer law:

  • Aug. 30: Canby Community Center, 2-4 p.m.
  • Aug. 31: Granite Falls Kilowatt Community Center, 9-11 a.m.
  • Aug. 31: Clarkfield City Hall/Old Fire Hall,1-3 p.m.

Presentations will be given by: Tyler Knutson, SWCD Technician - Buffer Law; Chris Balfany, County Ditch Inspector - Buffer Law in regards to county ditches/redeterminations; Liz Ludwig, FSA - Buffer Law in regards to Continuous Conservation Reserve program (CCRP)

If you cannot attend and would like more information on the new Buffer Law, please call Tyler Knutson at the Yellow Medicine SWCD office at 320-669-442 x3 or stop by the office.

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Cover crop field day Sept. 23 in Renville County

The Renville County SWCD, Renville County Water Management, and Hawk Creek Watershed Project are hosting a cover crop field day Friday, Sept. 23. Registration will be 8:30-9 a.m., and demonstrations 9-11:30 a.m. The field is located ¼-mile north of 85432 120th St., Granite Falls.  Demonstrations include: Rainfall simulator, cover crop plants and test plot results with Holly Hatlewick from the Renville SWCD; and soil pits and tillage with Jodi DeJong-Hughes from the University of Minnesota Extension. Local cover crop seed vendor and applicator information will be available. For a map of the field day site location and more information, contact the Hawk Creek Watershed Project, 320-523-3666, or the Renville County SWCD, 320-523-1559.

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Cover crop survey shows support for soil-saving practice

Renco cover crop day

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (July 28, 2016)—Insight from 2,020 farmers from across the country reflected enthusiasm for cover crops and—for the fourth year in a row—found a yield boost in corn and soybeans following cover crops. Multi-year data from the survey shows the yield boost increases as cover crops are planted year after year, a revelation that points to an appealing long-term benefit of the conservation practice. The survey offers data unavailable elsewhere, providing a vital glimpse into farmers’ use of and perceptions about cover crops. Photo: Renville County cover crop field day last October.

The survey was conducted in March 2016 by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and the Conservation Technology Information Center (CTIC) with help from the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and Purdue University. Acreage planted to cover crops continued its steady rise among survey participants, reaching an average of 298 acres per farm in 2015 and projected to grow to a mean of 339 acres in 2016. Those figures are more than double the acreage survey participants said they planted in 2011. Corn yields rose an average 3.4 bushels per acre, or 1.9 percent, after cover crops, and soybean yields increased 1.5 bushels per acre, or 2.8 percent. Full report.

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Chippewa reports on public notice through Sept. 7

The Chippewa River Watershed draft TMDL and WRAPS reports are now on public notice through Sept. 7. The reports are posted on the Chippewa River Watershed web page. The public notice for these reports was published in the State Register on Aug. 8 and is posted on the MPCA Public Notice web page. The Draft/pending projects web page has been updated with the public notice dates also. The TMDL report addresses impairments for 16 stream reaches consisting of 14 bacteria impairments, one total suspended solid (TSS) impairment, two dissolved oxygen (DO) impairments, two macroinvertebrate Index of Biological Integrity (IBI) impairments, one fish IBI impairment, and 25 lakes for nutrient eutrophication impairments in the Chippewa River Watershed.

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Governor Dayton launches 'year of water action'

year of water logo

Governor Mark Dayton kicked off a “Year of Water Action” in Minnesota, urging businesses, the agricultural industry, outdoor enthusiasts, communities and families to take action to conserve and improve water quality. Throughout the next 12 months, Governor Dayton and his administration will visit school classrooms, water treatment facilities, research institutions, and farms to encourage Minnesotans to learn more about the challenges facing our waters, and empower every individual to take actions in their own lives to be part of the solution. Each month will focus on a different facet and important role water plays in our state’s health, economy and overall way of life.

  • August 2016 – Year of Water Action Kickoff: Conserve, Protect, Clean and Enjoy
  • September 2016 – We All Live Downstream: Understanding Our Clean Water Sources
  • October 2016 – Clean Water Challenges & Solutions in Greater Minnesota
  • November 2016 – Clean Water Challenges & Solutions in the Twin Cities
  • December 2016 – Winter Ways to Take Action for Clean Water
  • January 2017 – Clean Water Creates a Healthy Minnesota
  • February 2017 – Minnesota Innovations in Clean Water Practices and Technology
  • March 2017 – Impacts of Climate Change on Minnesota Water
  • April 2017 – Sustainable Practices for Clean Water
  • May 2017 – Keep Our Waters Swimmable & Fishable  
  • June 2017 – Clean Water is Good for Our Economy
  • July 2017 – Year of Water Action for a Future Generation 
  • August 2017 – A Year of Water Action in Review

Link to video of Governor Dayton and three commissioners announcing the Year of Water at the Mississippi River headwaters: https://youtu.be/CdZjYq-HUPg

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EPA water quality news

  • A joint US Geological Survey and USDA Agricultural Research Service study looked at the impact of conservation practices on nutrient transport in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. They found that they could detect impacts of conservation on nitrogen loading more so than phosphorus. Journal article... | News release...
  • EPA has released the final phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Vermont segments of Lake Champlain. The TMDL focuses on reductions from wastewater treatment plants, agricultural and forest land, developed land and roadways, and unstable stream corridors. More...
  • An evaluation of the progress toward Chesapeake Bay TMDLs for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment showed mixed results, according the U.S. EPA. Agriculture was on target for reduction goals (for 2015) in phosphorus but not sediment or nitrogen. More...
  • USDA NRCS hosted a webinar on the Water Quality Index for Runoff from Agricultural Fields (WQIag). This tool examines several factors and calculates a water quality runoff ranking from 1 to 10 (best). When repeated over time, it can be used to examine trends and assess the impact of conservation practices. View the recorded presentation...
  • Scientists at the University of Illinois have found a way to track the age of nitrate nitrogen in crop fields. The goal of the effort is to help guide precision applications of nitrogen fertilizer in ways that rely on more than just concentration. Of interest to our audience, as nitrate nitrogen mineralizes from organic sources, such as manure, it is considered to be age "zero" in their calculations. They also identified interesting patterns between corn and soybean in that nitrogen in soybean fields tended to be "younger" than nitrogen in corn fields. They also noted that nitrogen in the topsoil tended to be "older" than nitrogen in lower layers - which goes against what I would have guessed. More...
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) the Chesapeake Bay dead zone is predicted to be average or slightly smaller. More...

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Buffer science and design sympsium, field trip Sept. 16-17

ditch buffer

Early bird registration ends Sept. 9 for the Buffer Science and Design Symposium Sept. 16 at the Northstar Ballroom, University of Minnesota, St. Paul campus. Researchers are invited to submit abstracts for poster presentations. Draft agenda, registration link, and abstract submission form are at http://www.wrc.umn.edu/bufferdesignsym

This one-day symposium will explore the current science behind the design, effectiveness, and implementation of riparian buffers. It will provide a scientific foundation to inform future training, rules, implementation projects, and research. The primary audience is researchers and students, and staff from government and private organizations engaged in buffer-related activities. (Note this is not training on Buffer Law policy and implementation.)

Plenary speakers:

  • Tom Isenhart, Iowa State University
  • Gary Bentrup, National Agroforestry Center
  • James Stark, US Geological Survey

See website for a complete list of presenters: http://www.wrc.umn.edu/bufferdesignsym

Also plan on the Riparian Buffers Field Trip, Saturday Sept. 17. The Dept. of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering and the Society for Ecological Restoration-Midwest Great Lakes Chapter will lead a field trip to look at stream restoration, buffers, and riparian management projects in the area. Contact Chris Lenhart (lenh0010@umn.edu) for more information.

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Summer issue of 'Shore to shore' newsletter available online

shore to shore newsletter

The summer issue of the U of M Extension's "From Shore to Shore" newsletter is now posted on the website to view or download. Articles include:

  • Rain Gardens in Your Space - An Upcoming Webinar
  • Dam Replacement Project Allows Fish to Migrate in and out of Cass Lake for the First Time in 100 Years via the Mississippi River
  • Disconnect: Dams and Other Barriers in Minnesota's Streams and Rivers
  • Fish and Insects as Indicators of Waters' Impairment

Please feel free to share the newsletter with others; reproduce articles for other newsletters (please credit "From Shore to Shore" as the source); and submit shoreland and water quality articles, pictures of projects, upcoming local events, and suggestions for topics for upcoming issues. Contact Karen Terry, Extension Educator-Water Resource Team, University of Minnesota Extension Regional Office, Morris. 320-589-1711, e-mail: kterry@umn.edu.

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Report fish kills to Minnesota State Duty Officer

Fish kill in the Whitewater River in 2015

The University of Minnesota estimates that about 500 fish kills occur in the state every year but few are reported. Anglers and others who see multiple dead fish in one location should report it to the Minnesota State Duty Officer at 800-422-0798. This phone number for environmental and other emergencies is staffed 24 hours 7 days week. (Call 911 for immediate threats to life and property.)

Natural causes of fish kills include:

  • Low oxygen levels due to natural stream conditions and other intrinsic factors
  • High water temperature
  • Disease
  • Winter kill

Human causes of fish kills include:

  • Low oxygen caused by human impacts
  • Toxic spills
  • Manure runoff
  • Pesticides and fertilizers
  • Wastewater or stormwater discharges high in temperature

According to the U of M study:

  • Runoff, disease, and low oxygen are most common causes
  • Fish kills often occur when multiple factors happen at same time
  • Low oxygen will affect large bodied fish before small bodied fish
  • Fish kills involving few species are often caused by disease
  • Toxic pollution or discharges can cause death among multiple species and sizes
  • Very few fish kills result in total loss of fish community

To encourage more reporting of fish kills, the MPCA will distribute postcards with the State Duty Officer phone number at Eco Experience during the Minnesota State Fair.

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