Watershed Connections - April 2017

Watershed Connections

April 2017

Topics lined up for watershed network event April 20

watershed network logo

The spring watershed networking and learning meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 20 at the Redwood Falls Pizza Ranch, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

This will be the 16th event since starting in 2009. Information about previous meetings is located on the watershed network web page. The Pizza Ranch lunch buffet (at 11:45 a.m.) is $10.38.

Minnesota River Valley master plan

Redwood and Renville Counties are collaborating with the Dept. of Natural Resources to create a recreation and conservation master plan for the Minnesota River Valley for the two counties. It will develop an outdoor recreational destination, address the conservation of the area’s natural and cultural resources, provide outdoor recreation and connecting routes, and address impacts to the natural and cultural resources.

Water quality and quantity issues are a limiting factor for this project. It also limits the use of some uplands during floods. Both issues are also safety concerns. Watershed professionals could provide a perspective about the role of the agricultural community in addressing water issues under current farm programs and outreach efforts.

In-lake response to watershed restoration: Lake Shaokatan

Lake Shaokatan is a shallow lake in Lincoln County in southwest Minnesota with a long history of poor water quality associated with various forms of agricultural land use within its watershed. This project presents a narrative of the lake, focusing on changes in total phosphorus and total nitrogen concentrations over the past 30 years in response to watershed restoration projects. Lake Shaokatan is an informative case study on the response of aquatic systems to catchment land use and management.

Model My Watershed

The Model My Watershed app is one of several developed by the Stroud Water Research Center in Avondale, PA, designed to help citizens, conservation professionals, municipal decision-makers, researchers, educators, and students advance knowledge and stewardship of fresh water. It will: Analyze real land use and soil data in their neighborhoods and watersheds, model stormwater runoff and water-quality impacts using professional-grade models, and compare how different conservation or development scenarios could modify runoff and water quality. The vision is to provide an easy-to-use professional-grade modeling package to inform land-use decisions, support conservation practices, and enhance watershed education.

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'State of the river' at Minnesota River Congress May 18

Minnesota River Congress logo

“State of the River” is the theme of the eighth Minnesota River Congress, Thursday, May 18 at the Redwood Falls Community Center. It begins with a 'networking fair' at 4:30-6 p.m. Register online for the networking fair. New this year are five-minute rotating presentations from organizations with displays, and a public comment suggestion box. After a dinner at 6 p.m., the program will begin at 6:30 with an overview of the Congress, Interest Network Teams, Congress activities, and the govenor's 25% reduction in pollution by 2025 initiative. 

From 7 to 9 p.m. a "State of the River” will include:

  • Minnesota State University Water Resources Center review of accomplishments since 1990, Kim Musser, MSU
  • Summary of current monitoring data and what needs to be accomplished to improve conditions, Pat Baskfield, MPCA
  • Agriculture panel, Ag Water Quality Certification Program
  • Collaborative for Sediment Source Reduction
  • Greater Blue Earth River Basin Associaton 
  • History of CREP in the Minnesota River Basin and CREP round three parameters and needs (BWSR)

Cost: $20 per person. No charge for young adults under 19 or with a college ID. Make checks payable to CCMR (Coalition for a Clean Minnesota River) PO Box 488, New Ulm, MN 56073. Register onlineFor more information contact Scott Sparlin, 507-276-2280, sesparlin@gmail.com.

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RCRCA plans busy summer with monitoring, paddle events

RCRCA paddle

The Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA) will have a busy summer working in partnership with MPCA, MDA and MAWRC/Discovery Farms to sample and assess lakes and streams. Starting May 1, Surface Water Assessment Grant sampling in both watersheds will begin on 24 stream sites and 10 lakes.

Through a Phase 1 WRAPS grant, gap monitoring will be added to ensure an adequate amount of samples are collected to prevent “insufficient findings” in the upcoming WRAPS for both watersheds. Through MDA, four sites are sampled focusing on pesticide residues in our waters. And a new Discovery Farms site located north of Wabasso will be under the care of RCRCA. This is a “paired watershed monitoring” site where two separate watersheds will be surface and tile monitored and sampled within the same field. And all this work will coincide with ongoing Watershed Pollutant Load Monitoring Network activities of seven sites.

Redwood and Cottonwood canoe trips in June

All are welcome to participate in RCRCA’s annual canoe trips down the Redwood and Cottonwood rivers. Tuesday, June 20 for the Redwood River and Thursday, June 22 for the Cottonwood. Check out RCRCA’s website for more details and registration information.

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BWSR to host Minnesota Public Drainage Manual workshops

The Board of Water and Soil Resources has scheduled three workshops on the Minnesota Public Drainage Manual. They are for county commissioners, auditors, and attorneys; watershed district managers, administrators, and secretaries; drainage inspectors; viewers; private drainage attorneys; and involved landowners. The workshops will be from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on:

  • May 22, Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Moorhead
  • May 23, Coyote Moon Event Center, St. Cloud
  • May 25, New Ulm Conference Center, New Ulm

Registration information and the workshop agenda will be sent out near the end of the week of April 17. The agenda will involve the lead writers for Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the MPDM and others knowledgeable about Minnesota drainage law. The $25 fee will cover food (lunch and breaks) and meeting room costs. A separate workshop will be held for drainage engineers in April.

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LeSueur Watershed Network hears water management success stories

lesueur watershed

The Le Sueur River Watershed Network potluck brought about 40 people to Waldorf March 28 to discuss projects that effectively manage water quantity and impacts of more and more frequent high intensity rain events.

The 711,838-acre watershed spans Blue Earth, Waseca, Steele, Le Sueur, Faribault, and Freeborn counties, and is a major contributor of sediment and nutrients to the Minnesota River. Participants learned how the city of Truman in the neighboring Watonwan River Watershed mitigated repeated flooding issues and learned success stories from a local crop consultant and farmers implementing conservation tillage practices in rotations with corn and soybeans.

The event was hosted by the Le Sueur River Watershed Network Steering Committee, composed of farmers, homeowners, recreationists, elected officials, and conservation professionals that have stepped forward since March 2014 to grow the network and further the seven recommendations for cleaner water and river health developed in 2013 by a focus group of local citizens and staff.

These recommendations prioritize stabilizing local hydrology through education, experimentation and demonstration with temporary water storage through impoundments, soil health, and improving river stability and reducing erosion. Photo: Bernie Paulson, a farmer in the Le Sueur River Watershed, describes the benefits of reduced tillage practices.

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Ag Water Quality Certification Program tops 200,000 acres

lochen farm

More than 200,000 acres of Minnesota farmland are now enrolled in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP). The program marked the milestone recently at Dave and Jayne Lochen’s Shore Acres Farm near Kimball in Stearns County. Shore Acres Farm is a beef cattle and diversified crop operation growing seed and sweet corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Since the program’s inception under Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014, 365 farms have been certified across Minnesota. To date, certified farms have added 628 new conservation practices. The practices have kept more than 12.1 million pounds of sediment out of Minnesota rivers while saving nearly 17.4 million pounds of soil and 7,414 pounds of phosphorous.

With certification, Lochen has made changes to fertility, reduced some tillage practices, and added cover crops. After being certified, each farm is deemed to be in compliance with new water quality laws and regulations for 10 years. Certification is also an approved practice farmers can use to comply with the state buffer law. Photo L-R: MDA Commissioner Dave Frederickson, Jayne and Dave Lochen, MDA Assistant Commissioner Susan Stokes.

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Curt Trost, Redwood County, newest Discovery Farm

Discovery Farms Minnesota added two sites that monitor surface and tile flow on one field at the Curt Trost farm near Wabasso in Redwood County. Tim Radatz, Discovery Farms Minnesota Research Director explained, “The sites have a lot of potential because Curt is doing cover crops right now. We’d like him to continue to do what he is doing so we can pair those basins. Once they are paired, he could stop using cover crops in one basin but continue the same practices in the other so that we can start to get to the impact of what cover crops mean to both surface runoff and tile drainage in that area.” Family members involved in the 1,400-acre operation include sons-in-law Justin Morin and Trevor Kukowski who also farm an additional 600 acres. Crops: Corn and soybean rotation, and cover crops for the last three years. Interview with Curt Trost.

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Workshop features ag drainage and future of water quality


With the billing, "Agricultural drainage and future of water quality," a large audience turned out at the March 27 workshop in Willmar hosted by ISG and Prinsco. Among the speakers, Bill Thompson of the MPCA-Rochester office discussed hydrology and artificial drainage, Chuck Brandel of ISG described their numerous water quality projects, Don Rinquist of the drainage viewers association delved into details of ditch viewing, Al Kean and Tim Gillette of BWSR described the drainage manual update, and attorney John Kolb reviewed drainage history and current legal issues.

Thompson said altered hydrology is among the stressors on water quality. The five components of a healthy watershed are: Connectivity, biology, hydrology, geomophology, and water quality. Brandel said more money is needed for monitoring, and we need to determine the dollar value of the public benefit for water quality projects. "We've seen a turn in mentality in the past ten years. People are more open now"  to water qualiy projects. Despite the political change in Washington, Kolb said the proposed changes in the Waters of the U.S. case are still in litigation, and the Des Moines Water Works case still may turn the tide toward managing ag drainage as a point source.

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Watershed news briefs

EPA offers Water Quality Modeling Webinar April 20: Introduction to SWAT

EPA’s Water Quality Modeling Workgroup is hosting a series of webinars focused on modeling as it applies to the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), Standards, and Water Quality Permitting Programs, but they are applicable to a wide range of audiences. A webinar entitled “Introduction to SWAT,” will be at noon Thursday, April 20. It will introduce the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) water quality model. SWAT is a small watershed to river basin-scale model to simulate the quality and quantity of surface and ground water and predict the environmental impact of land use, land management practices, and climate change. Registration is required and is now available here. Previous webinars in this series are available at: http://www.epa.gov/tmdl/tmdl-modeling.

River health and restoration workshops scheduled

The DNR is offering several River health and restoration workshops this summer:

  • June 19-23 in Fergus Falls: Fundamentals of river science
  • July 24 - Aug. 3 in Whitewater State Park: River monitoring and assessment
  • Sept. 11-21 in Fergus Falls: River restoration: Design and application

The workshops will teach the fundamentals of stream science including: Fluvial geomorphology, hydrology, connectivity, biology, and water quality, and educate attendees in natural channel design techniques and approaches that ensure long-term health and stability. To register or for questions contact Amy Childers, amy.r.childers@state.mn.us.  - 2017 Workshop flyer.

SWCD supervisors in state and national leadership roles

SWCD Supervisors Emily Javens (Blue Earth) and Ian Cunningham (Pipestone) were elected to leadership positions during the National Association of Conservation District (NACD) annual meeting in Denver. Javens represents the MASWCD on the national association’s board of directors and was elected as chair of the north central region which represents nine states. MASWCD Past President Ian Cunningham was sworn in as an executive board member during NACD’s annual meeting Feb. 1. Gov. Mark Dayton reappointed Wadena SWCD Supervisor Tom Schulz to a second term on the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. 

Updated version of What’s In My Neighborhood now available

The MPCA’s What’s In My Neighborhood application has been helping people find environmental information for nearly 15 years. The agency’s switch to a new data and information management system has made it possible for WIMN users to search for even more data.

Launched in 2003, the original application provided users with information about potentially contaminated properties only. In 2009, a vastly expanded version was introduced, giving people access to information about air emissions, wastewater discharges, and solid or hazardous waste activities. The latest iteration makes some new program activities available to users, including data about emergency management, environmental review and pollution prevention projects, to name a few. If you have questions or comments about the application, send us a note using the WIMN feedback form.

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Manual: Inspiring action for nonpoint source pollution control

inspiring action book cover

This manual draws upon decades of engagement in conservation management and years of applied research on conservation behavior. Its guiding principles for inspiring conservation action not only are backed by the latest social science, but also have been field-tested in Minnesota.

Conservation resource professionals will find the statistics, stories, and strategies presented useful in project design and evaluation, as well as for leveraging support for conservation programming. The manual describes a new approach for water resource protection informed by systems thinking and a model of community capacity. It then offers real-world examples and success stories based on the authors’ ongoing work in Minnesota. Download at Freshwater Society.

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Sustainable practices April theme in Year of Water Action

year of water action logo

Sustainable Practices for Clean Water is the April theme of Governor Dayton's “Year of Water Action”. Gov. Mark Dayton encourages all Minnesotans to take a role in protecting our state’s most precious resource for future generations. Gov. Dayton has called on Minnesotans to work together to find solutions to keep Minnesota’s water clean and accessible to everyone. Despite the state’s abundance of lakes, rivers, groundwater and streams, more than 40 percent of Minnesota’s waters are currently listed as impaired or polluted. 

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