Watershed Connections - September 2018

Watershed Connections

September 2018

We Are Water traveling exhibit launches Oct. 12 in St. Paul

we are water

The We Are Water MN Traveling Exhibit is kicking off its 2018-2019 statewide tour on Oct. 12 at the University of Minnesota - St. Paul. We Are Water MN explores the connections between the humanities and water through an exhibit, public events and educator resources. The 2018-2019 tour will feature the stories of two Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program certified producers and how they manage water quality on their farms. Check out the tour schedule and mark your calendar!

Surface water webpage update offers more current data

The MPCA’s surface water data webpages, also known as EDA (Environmental Data Access) have been updated. They may look the same but the information they present is very different. For five years these maps were static with the only up-to-date material being the chemistry monitoring data. Now you can find the latest data on impairments (including a new search), assessments, and assessment unit IDs (AUIDs). Note that biological monitoring data, restoration project numbers and MPCA actions in the watershed have not been updated.

Get there from www.pca.state.mn.us by going to Water, Water Data, and then Lake and stream information. The Advanced text and map search is geared toward professionals. Layers on the map can be turned on and off, you can search by AUID, and you get a little more information. The Simple search map is designed for the general public looking for a particular lake or stream. In the future these maps will be updated every two years (after the public comment period on Minnesota’s Impaired Water List). Chemistry monitoring data continues to be refreshed nightly. For questions contact Miranda Nichols, MPCA Impaired Waters List Coordinator, miranda.nichols@state.mn.us.

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Clean Water Partnership program offers 0% interest loans

Cities and other government entities can borrow up to $2 million with 0% interest to address non-point source pollution through the Clean Water Partnership program. Loan payback may extend 10 years.

Eligible projects include:

  • Urban green infrastructure such as rain water reuse, green roofs, porous pavement, or any stormwater best management practice (BMP)
  • Buffers: purchase of native seeds and vegetation
  • Septic system upgrades and replacements
  • Technical assistance, outreach, and education
  • Equipment such as conservation tillage equipment
  • Any nonpoint source BMP
  • Feedlot upgrades and replacement  

Project sponsors can use the loans to implement projects directly or to set up a loan fund for landowners and other stakeholders. Government entities may apply to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) at any time.

See the program webpage for more information, or contact: 

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CWP loans

Local governments collaborate on water planning

BWSR news release, Aug. 27: Continuing statewide work to shift local water planning to a more coordinated approach, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) approved nine new planning grants for the One Watershed, One Plan program. The Aug. 23 board action allocates up to $2.2 million in Clean Water Fund grants to fund nine planning projects to address water issues on a watershed basis.

BWSR has divided Minnesota into 63 suggested “planning boundaries” based on major watersheds. The legislature set a participation goal in 2015 of all planning boundaries by the year 2025. So far, the five pilot plans have been approved by the BWSR board and thirteen groups are actively developing plans. The new planning grants bring the number of planning partnerships to 27.

The nine new planning areas are:

  • Hawk Creek watershed, which includes parts of Chippewa, Kandiyohi, and Renville counties.
  • Joe River and Two Rivers watershed, which includes parts of Kittson and Roseau counties.
  • Mississippi River Headwaters watershed, which includes parts of Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, and Itasca counties.
  • Nemadji watershed, which includes parts of Carlton and Pine counties.
  • Redeye River watershed, which includes parts of Becker, Otter Tail, Todd, and Wadena counties.
  • Rum River watershed, which includes parts of Aitkin, Anoka, Benton, Crow Wing, Isanti, Kanabec Mille Lacs, Morrison, and Sherburne counties.
  • Shell Rock River and Winnebago watershed, which includes part of Freeborn County.
  • Wild Rice and Marsh River watershed, which includes parts of Becker, Clay, Clearwater, Mahnomen, and Norman counties.
  • Zumbro River watershed, which includes parts of Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted, Rice, and Wabasha counties.

More information about the One Watershed One Plan program, including a map of the participating watersheds, is on BWSR’s website: www.bwsr.state.mn.us

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Online survey ends Sept. 30 for Minnesota River-Redwood-Renville counties plan

Minnesota River master plan

Leading up to the next phase of the Minnesota River Valley Recreation and Conservation Project, an opportunity for public comment continues until Sept. 30 with a short online survey The survey seeks input on preferences for outdoor recreation uses and education or interpretive themes in a potential State Recreation Area for the Redwood and Renville county river valley area.

In 2014, the legislature directed the DNR to develop a master plan for the area two miles either side of the Minnesota River in Redwood and Renville counties. They have been working since 2009 to identify conservation and recreation management concepts that will meet a variety of interests.

Interests include the changing needs of outdoor recreationists, quality wildlife habitat in the Minnesota River Valley area, and the many sensitive animals and plant communities. A key goal is to continue respecting private property rights while supporting diverse local economies and healthy communities. Implementation strategies identified in the plan include exploring options for a new State Recreation Area (SRA) in the valley. 

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BWSR board annual tour visits Rock, Nobles counties

BWSR 2018 tour

Exploring the unique opportunities and challenges facing southwest Minnesota, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) gathered local, state, and federal conservation staff for its annual board tour Aug. 22 in Rock and Nobles counties. The board visited a number of projects focused on flood recovery and water quality improvements.

Tour stops included wellhead areas in Worthington and Adrian, the recently-restored Summit Lake in Nobles County, and a presentation in Luverne highlighting disaster recovery efforts following significant flooding in 2014. Local partners included the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District, Rock County SWCD, Nobles County SWCD, Minnesota Rural Water Association, and Rock County Rural Water District.

The 20-member BWSR board includes representatives from state agencies, local governments, and citizens. Board tour destinations rotate each year to highlight different regions of Minnesota. The projects featured during the annual tour illustrate how successful partnerships between federal, state, and local governments and private landowners safeguard and enhance Minnesota’s soil and water resources. Photos from the Board Tour can be found on Facebook here: https://goo.gl/XjgnyC. - BWSR news release, Aug. 23.

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Stearns County 'soil health tour' highlights cover crops

stearns cover crops

With just enough rain since they were planted Aug. 2, about 36 varieties of cover crops were emerging in a long row of small plots at a "soil health tour" Aug. 29 in Stearns County. Viewing the plots across Hwy. 15 from Luxemburg Feed Service, farmers and agency staff listened as Rick Tamm of Byron Seeds described the varieties and what they can do, from tilling soil, fixing nitrogen, scavenging nitrogen, ground cover, livestock forage, and building soil organic matter.

The plots wrapped up a day-long tour that included cover crops at the Lee Zabinski farm, no-till at Bechthold Dairy, Alan Olmscheid's hayable buffers, and Francis Krippner's rock-surfaced stream crossing.  When considering cover crops, Tamm advised farmers to first determine the goal before choosing what type to use. Tour sponsors included: Stearns SWCD, Sauk River Watershed District, and NRCS.

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Ag water quality certification program receives national honor

MAWQCP Dorrich

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture presented its first public-private partnership award in Hartford, CT to the Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture's Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program and Land O’Lakes. The public-private partnership was established in 2016 with the shared goal of protecting and improving water quality in Minnesota.

Certification is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water. It uses a risk-assessment process where risks to water quality are identified and treated. When an identified risk is mitigated it is counted as a new practice. Farms that install and maintain approved farm management practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. Photo: Certification presentation at Dorrich Dairy east of Glenwood (L-R): Greg Vold, Richard Vold, Dorothy Vold, Suzanne Vold, Brad Vold, of Dorrich Dairy; Brad Jordahl Redlin, Grant Pearson, of MAWQCP; Holly Kovarik, Pope SWCD.

To date, 74 of Minnesota's 87 counties have at least one water-quality certified farm. Current certification numbers:            

  • 645 certified producers
  • 407,534 certified acres
  • 1,244 new practices implemented

Impact on water quality:

  • 21,474 tons of soil saved per year
  • 57, 542 tons of sediment reduced per year
  • 25,194 lbs. of phosphorus prevented per year
  • Up to 49% estimated reduction in nitrogen loss

The purpose of the NASDA Public-Private Partnership Award is to recognize National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Partners Program organizations that have partnered with a state to implement a program, project, or service that positively impacts the state. The collaboration with Land O’Lakes, Inc. provides the opportunity for the state to develop delivery of conservation services via private industry, with the potential to take resource stewardship to a greater scale.

stoney brook farm

Stoney Brook Farms is Minnesota's
600th Water Quality Certified farm

Stoney Brook Farms, Inc. is a family farm in Foley that grows sweet corn, pumpkins, squash, peas, green beans, and fall decorative items such as indian corn and gourds. They have also started hosting Harvest Fun Days with a pumpkin patch and a corn maze. Stoney Brook Farms has taken an innovative approach to managing their farm, with a focus on water quality and soil health practices. Some examples of their practices include no-till planting, residue management, cover crops, and crop diversity. Check out Benton County SWCD's full article for more information. Photo left to right: Brad and Mark Chmielewski of Stoney Brook Farms, Inc.  accepting their MN Water Quality Certified Farm sign from Benton SWCD Technician Casey Gwost. - MAWQCP Insider newsletter.

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News briefs

MDA seeking public input on water quality best management practices

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is seeking public input on the revised Water Quality Best Management Practices (BMPs) for all agricultural herbicides and revised Water Quality Best Management Practices for Acetochlor. Currently, the MDA is in the process of revising these BMPs in response to current agricultural practices. The current BMPs can be viewed HERE. The comment period is open until Oct. 4.

New runoff risk tool determines best manure application timing

The Minnesota Dept. of Agriculture, in partnership with the National Weather Service has designed  a new tool for those applying manure in Minnesota called the Minnesota Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast. The interactive map is designed to help farmers and custom manure applicators decide on the optimal time to apply manure by predicting or modeling when runoff events are likely to happen. As a bonus, the tool also provides forecasted precipitation amounts, as well as soil temperatures at 2 and 6 inches of depth to help with manure application decisions. Click here to read more.   

MPPA approves St. Louis River Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy

The St. Louis River Watershed Watershed Restoration And Protection Strategy report was approved by the MPCA on Aug. 9. The final WRAPS report is posted on the St. Louis River Watershed web page.

On-farm research: Using saturated buffers to reduce nitrogen leaching, runoff

Three researchers presented their findings on “Saturated Buffers as a strategy for N abatement in tile drainage” at the Sept. 19 Basin Alliance for the Lower Mississippi in Minnesota meeting. Dave Legvold is an environmental educator, farmer and mentor. Legvold has devoted his life to teaching, learning about, and improving the quality of the environment. He has been working his family farm of 800 acres of rolling land outside of Northfield, Minn., since 1976. Claire Hinther, guest faculty at St. Olaf College in Northfield, has been researching saturated buffers on Legvold’s farm. She has worked in partnership with the Dept. of Agriculture, Ellingson Drainage, Ecosystem Services Exchange, and St. Olaf College to amass a significant amount of data to verify the efficacy of various kinds of buffer plantings. Laura Bender, PhD candidate working with Dr. Chris Lenhart of the University of Minnesota on phosphorous abatement in buffers, discussed a novel approach to methodologies to remove nutrients from agricultural runoff.

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