Clean Water Fund grants come to areaWORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources awarded more than $18 million in grants late last week for projects that will protect and restore Minnesota’s streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater.
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources awarded more than $18 million in grants late last week for projects that will protect and restore Minnesota’s streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater.
Of that money, the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) will receive nearly $462,500, while the Rock County SWCD will collect more than $169,000. Pipestone, Murray and Cottonwood counties, which are part of the Redwood-Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA), will share in nearly $613,000; while Jackson County is part of the Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance that was awarded $425,000.
Ed Lenz, Nobles County SWCD manager, said his agency was “very happy” to receive Clean Water Fund dollars.
“That was everything we had asked for,” he said, adding that the local office has more than $1 million in cost-share projects waiting in their office. “We were trying to be competitive in the grant application. You don’t want to ask for everything. We felt it was important to get some money than none at all.”
Lenz said the local SWCD has a good track record of working with county residents, and that is one of the main reasons why their office has so many applicants for conservation projects.
“In Nobles County we have a very good staff,” he said. “It’s a history of good work and good landowners that gets people coming in the door.”
The Nobles SWCD will get $285,508 for Clean Water Assistance programs, which will be used as cost-share to implement 14 grassed waterways, 24 sediment basins and three stream bank erosion projects, said Lenz. The grassed waterways range from 400 feet to 3,300 feet in length. For all of these projects, the landowner must pay 25 percent of the project cost, with the remaining 75 percent coming from cost-share.
The stream bank projects will include two along the Kanaranzi Creek north of Adrian, and one along the Champepadan Creek west of Lismore.
“It’s quite a bit of workload,” Lenz said of the projects. “If things go well, we expect half to be done in 2013 and the other half in 2014.”
The $176,933 coming to Nobles County SWCD for livestock waste management will be used as cost-share on two projects —a manure storage structure to manage feedlot runoff on a hog and cattle farm east of Lismore, and a runoff filter strip project planned in the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District. Contracts on those projects have yet to be signed, Lenz said, adding that the goal is to complete both projects in 2013.
In Rock County, SWCD director Eric Hartman said the funds they are receiving are dedicated for specific projects. The Clean Water Fund grant designated for livestock waste management ($36,149) will be used as cost-share with a beginning cattle producer who wants to control his feedlot runoff. The money will fund the engineering and design for a runoff control system needed to comply with water quality standards.
The largest share of funds awarded to Rock County is designated for accelerated implementation within the Rock River Watershed. This money ($69,510) is for projects that protect, enhance or restore water quality. Hartman said the county plans to use these grant dollars for LIDAR technology, which involves aerial technology that will more accurately portray the topography.
“The accuracy of this is probably down to within six inches,” he said. “Right now, our maps go back to 1977, and those have everything placed on 10-foot contour intervals.
“The detail will be far more extensive than what we’re working with right now,” he added. “That will allow us to target certain areas where some specific practices would give us the most bang for our buck.”
Rock County is the only county in far southwest Minnesota that will also receive Clean Water funds for conservation drainage practices. Hartman said the $63,775 received for conservation drainage will be targeted at a controlled drainage projects and installation of bioreactors also within the Rock River Watershed. So far, one producer in Rock County is interested in moving forward with the technology.
“It’s not something that’s going to be a fit everywhere,” Hartman said.
The controlled drainage structure will work well on lands with very minimal (up to 1 percent) slope; and will allow crop producers to alter the water table — lower it in order to plant their crops, then raise it after the crop is planted and again lower in the fall of the year.
“The bioreactor would take it one step further — they’re beds of wood chips that filter the tile water going through there,” Hartman explained. “The chips pull the nitrogen out of the water. It’s another potential source of nitrogen reduction.”
Hartman said the projects are in the “very early stages,” and more planning has yet to be completed.
“We’re trying to get our own feet wet and producers’ feet wet so at least we’ve got something in our part of the state,” he said. “We haven’t done controlled drainage or bioreactors here. We can probably use these to gain some technical experience on our end.”
Hartman sees the Clean Water Funds as a “tremendous opportunity” to make an impact in Rock County and possibly gain more widespread acceptance of some of the technologies available in conservation.
Doug Goodrich, director of the RCRCA, said while Pipestone, Murray and Cottonwood counties are included in their joint powers board, at this time there aren’t any specific projects in those three counties that will utilize the Clean Water Funds awarded to the RCRCA.
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.