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Watershed gets stimulus boost

Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District board member Connie Frahm stands in front of some recently terraced farmland in Rock County.

ELLSWORTH -- Since its inception in late 1981, the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District has had a Frahm serving on its board of directors. First it was Dennis, who served until his death in 1992, and then it was his wife, Connie, who in the last 18 years has helped to oversee how dollars are spent on projects to improve soil conservation and water quality in Nobles and eastern Rock counties.

With nearly three decades of leadership on the board, the Frahms learned much about conservation practices and how they can be utilized to make agricultural land more productive. But it wasn't until the federal government awarded the K-LR Watershed District with $200,000 in stimulus funds for conservation efforts that Frahm decided to implement stepped terraces on land she owns in Rock County.

Last fall, the terraces were created on 160 acres in Section 10, Kanaranzi Township. The land had long had issues with washouts during heavy rains, and the terraces would help slow the flow of water. In addition to the terraces, new tile was also installed.

"There was tiling in there before," said Frahm. "They told us about (farmable terraces) when my mother had the farm, but it was kind of put on the backburner until this (funding) came up."

With memories of a heavy rain that washed corn stalk residue into the ditch a few years ago, Frahm applied for funding and was one of 20 landowners within the watershed district to receive 65 percent of the money she needed for her project from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) fund. When the first $200,000 ran out, the district received another $100,000 from a watershed district in southeast Minnesota that wasn't able to use up all of the grant dollars.

Frahm said the funds on her farm were used to install five terraces. Already, she and her renter are noticing an improvement on the land.

"It seems to be dry out there," Frahm said. "The renter said that's the driest the field has been since he's rented it."

Implementing a project that reduces soil erosion and will ultimately benefit water quality was an easy choice for Frahm, who has long believed in the benefits of conservation.

Dawn Madison, a technician with the Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Worthington, said terraces were just one of the projects landowners could implement with the ARRA dollars. Others included waterways, sediment control basins and implementing tillage practices.

"One of the main purposes (of the stimulus funding), beyond erosion control ... was to stimulate the local economy as well -- to keep our contractors and our local businesses having some money circulating," Madison said.

With 198,400 acres in the K-LR Watershed, Madison said the ARRA funds made it possible to do a lot of good in the district. And if more funds are made available, there are willing landowners ready to implement new projects.

"We hope to see more dollars coming this direction because we really feel this is a good project," Madison said. "We need to spread the word that this is working. You want money to be spent in ways that it really is doing good long-term.

"It's impacting the county in a positive way, in a pretty grand scheme," she added.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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