Watershed Connections - December 2017

Watershed Connections

December 2017

Crow Wing takes top SWCD honor

2017 swcd convention glenn skuta

The "SWCD of the Year" award presented Dec. 5 at the MASWCD convention went to Crow Wing. The award recognizes business, leadership, and program activities. Crow Wing SWCD has been a leading county in Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) easements for lake and forest protection. As a host district for their Technical Service Area, they excel at tracking and reporting grants, and providing GIS technical support. The Outstanding Conservationist award went to Sandhill Dairy and Toad River Farms, represented by the Bob Dombeck Family of Perham. 

Other awards presented at the awards lunch Dec. 4:

  • MASWCD/MPCA Community Conservationist - Cheryl Seeman, nominated by Anoka CD, and presented by Glenn Skuta, MPCA Watershed Division director (at right in photo).
  • MASWCD/DNR Division of Forestry Outstanding Forest Steward - Dave Parent, nominated by Itasca SWCD.
  • MASWCD Legislator of the Year - Sen. Carrie Ruud.
  • MASWCD Teacher of the Year - John Sammler, Hopkins High School.
  • Outstanding SWCD Supervisor - Paul Krabbenhoft, Clay SWCD Supervisor, MASWCD Northwest Area 1 Director, and MASWCD Secretary/Treasurer.
  • DNR Division of Ecological and Water Resources Appreciation Award - Olmsted SWCD.
  • Conservation District Employee Award, presented by the Board of Water and Soil Resources - Peter Mead, Becker SWCD Manager.

Various programs of the MPCA were represented at the trade show Monday, Dec. 4, and Tuesday, Dec. 5, at the "Conservation Information Fair." The Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts represents the 89 soil and water conservation districts of Minnesota.

2017 swcd convention josh stock
Josh Stock talks with visitors at the MPCA's exhibit at the MASWCD convention trade show Dec. 5 in Bloomington

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Belmont gives research overview at Minnesota River Congress


Increased temporary water storage in the upper basin offers the greatest opportunity and least cost for reducing sediment in the Minnesota River, according to Patrick Belmont of Utah State University. Belmont gave an overview of sediment and nutrient issues in the Minnesota River at the Minnesota River Congress' ninth meeting Nov. 16 in Jordan. Despite much effort and expense over the past decade, there have been no reductions in nitrogen or sediment, while phosphorus has dropped 33 percent, mostly due to improvements in municipal wastewater treatment.

More recently, scientists have been studying how artificial drainage affects stream flow. At the field scale it helps water infiltration, while creating flow spikes at the watershed scale, Belmont says. Managing land use is the key to reducing sediment loss at low and moderate flows, using tools such as drainage and ditch management, wetlands, buffers, water retention, increasing soil organic matter, cover crops, and bank stabilization.

During his postdoctoral research, Belmont led a large collaborative project developing a sediment budget and morphodynamic sediment routing model for the Le Sueur River. At Utah State he continues to develop his research program in watershed hydrology, environmental geochemistry, and geomorphology. Anyone interested in getting copies of Patrick's papers can contact him directly or check his webpage.

Updates on resolutions

About 50 people attended Congress, reviewing progress on resolutions, interest network teams and board activities. Resolutions approved at previous meetings include: Building soil organic matter, flow control in streams, connecting waterways, funding Minnesota River Basin Data Center, civic engagement, Granite Falls fish passage and whitewater park, state river trails, and paddler access.

Representative openings on Action Board

If you or someone you know are interested in participating on the Congress Action Board, and can participate in at least three meetings during 2018, all are encouraged to apply for two-year positions these open categories: Agriculture, Local Government (includes SWCD supervisors)​, Business, Recreation, Watonwan River Watershed, Minnesota River Headwaters, Pomme de Terre Watershed, Hawk Creek Watershed, Native American Communities (2). To receive the one-page application form contact Scott Sparlin, sesparlin@gmail.com, 507-276-2280.

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Watershed Network hears variety of assessment tools

1 watershed 1 plan map

With One Watershed-One Plan now overarching water quality work in 80 watersheds among 87 counties, the roles of existing tools were highlighted at the 17th Watershed Network program Nov. 28 in New Ulm. Beth Knudsen gave an overview of DNR's Watershed Health Assessment Framework, and demonstrated the online map as a way to explore the health of a watershed, and the tools for sharing findings. Kristin Carlson of the DNR described 'zonation' to target efforts and more efficiently use limited resources for protection or restoration in any watershed. Tony Dingmann of the MPCA described watershed monitoring concepts and methods from the MPCA’s biological, water quality, and load monitoring programs. From monitoring, assessing, and civic engagement, the programs and tools can help in the development of watershed-wide plans.

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Old dam no longer blocks fish moving up High Island Creek

high island creek fish

At High Island Creek about five miles northwest of Henderson, cascading water now replaces the roar of a low-head dam. Built in the 1950s to protect lakes in the upper watershed from common carp, a washout in 2014 and eventual removal allowed a variety of fish species to migrate upstream.  Photo: Logperch.

Previous studies in High Island Creek found 27 fish species below the dam but not upstream, except for common carp. The timing of the washout proved beneficial from a research perspective. In 2009 and 2010 fish species upstream and downstream of the dam were well documented.

Following the 2014 dam washout, as part of the Intensive Watershed Monitoring schedule, the MPCA sampled fish communities. One month after the major flooding, they found sand shiners about 26 miles upstream of the old dam site. By September eleven new species were found upstream.

In 2015 and 2016 DNR and MPCA collaborated to monitor standard stream sites, finding 23 new fish species upstream. Two minnow species, central stoneroller and spotfin shiner, have been found 42 miles upstream of the previous dam location. Overall, 46 species have now been confirmed in the High Island Creek watershed and 39 (85% of all species) are now upstream of the historic dam.

Removal of the dam has finally reconnected fish species with upstream habitat unavailable for nearly 60 years. It will help MPCA staff understand any negative impacts in the watershed based on native aquatic species impacts. Prior studies showed the impact of the dam made it difficult to determine other negative impacts based on fish communities upstream of the dam. This project to assess native fish upstream movements and to restore stream functions and stability has been an opportunity for divisions within the Minnesota DNR, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and landowners to work together toward a common goal within a given public watercourse. - Jon Lore, DNR-New Ulm

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Chippewa River 2018 photo calendars now available

chippewa calendar 2018

The Chippewa River Watershed Project announced the winning photographs featured in a 2018 calendar that is available free of charge to the public. 

Photo: Brittany Johnson's autumn photo taken in Douglas County was selected the Best in Show and winner of the cash prize. The 2018 calendars are now available and may be picked up at the Chippewa River Watershed Project office in Montevideo and at some county SWCD offices. Stop in or contact Jennifer about your free copy at 320-321-1718 or email jennifer.hoffman@chippewariver.org.

  • January–Faith Anderson, Starbuck
  • February–Sarah Pavek, Glenwood
  • March–Shirley Saathoff, Alexandria
  • April–Barb Mulvaney, Glenwood
  • May–Stacy Hanson, Woodbury
  • June–Kim Froemming, Barrett
  • July–Robin Moore, Montevideo
  • August–Mary Jo Forbord, Starbuck
  • September–Rodney Willms, Brooklyn Park
  • October–Brittany Johnson, Evansville
  • November–Daniel Ondich, Brooklyn Center
  • December–Linda Flickinger, Montevideo

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Nine smart salting tips that protect Minnesota waters

We scatter an estimated 365,000 tons of salt in the metro area each year. But it only takes a teaspoon of salt to permanently pollute five gallons of water. A University of Minnesota study found that about 78% of salt applied in the Twin Cities for winter maintenance ends up either in groundwater or local lakes and wetlands.

The MPCA has found that groundwater in the state’s urban areas often exceeds the state standards for chloride contamination. Forty-seven bodies of water in Minnesota have tested above the standard for chloride, 39 of which are in the Twin Cities metro area.

Though no environmentally safe, effective, and inexpensive alternatives to salt are yet available, smart salting strategies can help reduce chloride pollution in state waters, while saving money and limiting salt damage to infrastructure, vehicles, and plants.

Do your part by following these simple tips:

  1. Shovel. The more snow and ice you remove manually, the less salt you will have to use and the more effective it can be.
  2. 15 degrees (F) is too cold for salt. Most salts stop working at this temperature. Use sand instead for traction, but remember that sand does not melt ice.
  3. Slow down. Drive for the conditions and make sure to give plow drivers plenty of space to do their work. Consider purchasing winter (snow) tires.
  4. Apply less. More salt does not mean more melting. Use less than four pounds of salt per 1,000 square feet. One pound of salt is approximately a heaping 12-ounce coffee mug. Leave about a three-inch space between granules. Consider purchasing a hand-held spreader to help you apply a consistent amount.
  5. Sweep up extra. If salt or sand is visible on dry pavement it is no longer doing any work and will be washed away. Use this salt or sand somewhere else or throw it away.
  6. Hire a certified Smart Salting contractor. Visit the MPCA web site for a list of winter maintenance professionals specifically trained in limiting salt use.
  7. Watch a video. Produced by the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, it offers tools for environmentally friendly snow and ice removal.
  8. Act locally. Support local and state winter maintenance crews in their efforts to reduce their salt use.
  9. Promote smart salting. Work together with local government, businesses, schools, churches, and nonprofits to find ways to reduce salt use in your community.

More info on road salt and chloride pollution in Minnesota

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MPCA closes Willmar regional office

mpca regional offices

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) closed its office in Willmar, effective Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. The six staff members assigned to the office have been re-assigned to alternate work locations, and also work from the Marshall MPCA office. Watershed Connections newsletter editor Forrest Peterson can be contacted at 320-979-1776, or forrest.Peterson@state.mn.us.

One of seven MPCA regional offices outside the Twin City metro area, the Willmar office opened in 1999 at 201 28th Ave. SW. In 2006, it moved to 1601 E. Hwy. 12. With the fewest staff among regional offices, MPCA officials decided that closure would reduce costs with minimal effect on services.
Along with the MPCA office in Marshall, the Willmar office served 18 counties in southwestern Minnesota. The Marshall office, which opened in 1976, will continue to work with citizens and businesses in protecting the environment.

Other regional offices are located in Duluth, Brainerd, Detroit Lakes, Mankato, and Rochester. More information about these MPCA offices is available on the agency's MPCA offices webpage.

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