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Heron Lake Watershed District on verge of receiving $122,000 grant

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HERON LAKE -- The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), tasked with identifying projects to receive Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund dollars generated by the Minnesota State Lottery, released its list of recommendations Thursday for funding in 2014 and 2015. For the first time ever, a Heron Lake Watershed District project has been selected for funds.

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Nearly 170 applications for funding were received this year by the LCCMR, totaling approximately $155 million. Of those applications, 65 proposals were selected to present to the commission.

On Thursday, the LCCMR announced it will recommend 48 of those projects be funded at a total cost of $36.66 million.

The HLWD project is the only one identified in southwest Minnesota for funding. Thirteen of the grant requests chosen by the commission came from the University of Minnesota, and another 11 came from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The HLWD was earmarked for its full request of $122,000 to complete two stabilization projects, install three water and sediment control basins and construct a 1.4-acre bioretention basin within the watershed district. The projects would be located in Murray, Nobles and Jackson counties.

"We've applied several times and this is the first time that we've ever gotten a hearing. The competition is so difficult," said Jan Voit, HLWD Administrator. She and watershed technician Ross Behrends appeared before the commission on June 19 to present the proposal.

"We had applied for Clean Water Legacy dollars for these projects, but we didn't get them," Voit added. "We had landowners already set to go and we were going to try every avenue that we could."

While the LCCMR selection is good news, the funding still needs to be approved by the Minnesota Legislature during its 2013 session. The HLWD project was identified for funding in 2014.

Voit said the projects wouldn't be completed until a signed grant agreement is in place and she knows exactly how much money is available. The $122,000 will be used as a cost-share with landowners. The grant will cover up to 75 percent of the project costs, with benefitting landowners to pay the remaining 25 percent.

The proposed bioretention basin would be constructed near West Graham Lake in Nobles County. Voit said it would capture 5.7 acre-feet of water while allowing sediment to filter out and release the water more slowly downstream. It would also provide additional aquatic habitat.

Two of the water and sediment control basins are also planned near West Graham Lake, with the third near Corabelle Lake in Murray County. The two streambank stabilization projects will be completed along the Okabena Creek in western Jackson County.

"Always our goal is water quality improvement, but we also want to be able to help landowners because it's costly," said Voit. "We believe it's our job to find implementation and education dollars so we can help people make our watershed district better."

In addition to providing cost-share on the six projects, the state funding will also help to cover the costs of water sampling efforts, a newsletter sharing information about the projects and a field day to showcase three of the sites once the work is complete.

"They wanted us to be able to show results, and water quality monitoring is the way we have to make that happen," Voit said.

Also, the HLWD has developed a reputation of sorts for being able to secure funding for "on the ground" projects and sharing those projects through open houses, field days and news releases.

"I think grant writing experience and our implementation record is good, and I think that helps us," said Voit.

"We're just really honored to have made it this far in the process," she added. "We will continue to do our best to put projects on the ground and to help our watershed residents."

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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