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Legacy grant money comes to the region

Submitted Photo This photo shows a J-hook created with rock in an area of the Rock River. The practice helps stabilize eroding stream banks.

WORTHINGTON -- The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) has awarded more than $10 million in state grants from Minnesota's Clean Water Fund to complete projects that help to protect streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater. In all, 61 applications were approved for funding in an announcement made Wednesday, including three in southwest Minnesota.

Garnering the largest grant in the region is the Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District, which will get more than $162,000 to complete a shoreline restoration project on the Langseth family property on the east basin of Lake Ocheda. The shoreline has eroded over time, and wave action has contributed to a nearly 20-foot drop-off on the eastern shoreline.

The SWCD applied for funding last year but the second time proved the charm, according to SWCD manager Ed Lenz. He credits additional contributions -- including $1,000 from the SWCD and $5,000 from the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District -- in advancing the application. The project was ranked 10th of the 61 approved for funding.

The Langseth family will need to match 25 percent, which can either be in cash or in-kind work toward the restoration project. Paul Langseth said one of their contributions will be in providing dirt for the project -- an estimated 3,200 cubic yards (roughly 152 semi-trailer-sized truck loads) will be needed to rebuild the slope. Jagged rock will also be hauled in and stacked along the shoreline to deflect damage caused by waves, and erosion control blankets will be installed along the entire 1,600 feet of shoreline.

"Overall, the plan is to get that shoreline re-established," said Lenz.

Work is expected to begin on the project next spring and will likely take the entire summer to complete.

Langseth said he was eager to begin work on the project, which has been on the drawing board for three years. He hopes the project will be a "jump start" for other projects along not just Lake Ocheda, but Lake Bella and Lake Okabena as well.

"This is just one small project as part of a total effort to improve the lake," he said. "I'd like to see it fit into a 5- or 10-year plan; it's just that the money was there and the project was ready to go. More critical is just a total lake restoration.

"This is a major contributor to the sediment in the lake, but a bigger issue for lake quality is going to be carp control," added Langseth. His hope is to see a plan developed to reduce carp populations, particularly in Lake Ocheda.

Des Moines River Watershed projects to be funded

Chris Hansen, Water Resources Administrator with Murray County Environmental Services, said the $83,064 in Clean Water Fund grant dollars it will share with Cottonwood and Jackson counties will be used to complete four projects along the Des Moines River.

In Murray County, the project includes the construction of a water retention structure or stormwater pond near Lake Wilson in the far western portion of the Beaver Creek Watershed, which is a subwatershed of the Des Moines River Watershed.

"We'll create kind of a small ponded area," said Hansen, adding that in addition to retaining water, it will improve wildlife habitat.

Following the Des Moines River to Windom, the second project will include the development of a water control structure in the park there to reduce sediment from flowing into the river.

The final two projects will be in Jackson, where a bio swale (rain garden-type project) will be constructed in Jackson Memorial Park, and a sediment control structure will be installed on the south side of town near the Jackson REA facility.

"(That project) will deal with some erosion issues by slowing down the storm water and settling out the sediment prior to entering the river," Hansen said.

In the past, Hansen has applied for funding for just the project in Murray County but was unsuccessful. This year, the three counties worked together since all of the projects were to benefit the West Fork Des Moines River. With the funding now secured, Hansen said construction will begin next spring.

Rain gardens, shoreline projects are planned

in Rock County

Rock County Land Management's plans to stabilize eroding stream banks and develop rain gardens in the city of Luverne ranked the highest among area projects vying for Clean Water Fund grant dollars. Ranked seventh by BWSR, Rock County was awarded $46,598 for two stream bank projects and three rain gardens.

Doug Bos, assistant director of the Rock County SWCD/Land Management Office, said two of the rain gardens will be constructed at the American Reformed Church in Luverne, with the third to be completed by a local youth working toward his Eagle Scout project. That rain garden will be built on the St. Catherine's Catholic Church property in Luverne. All three will work to slow runoff and improve water quality, Bos said.

The stream bank projects won't be completed until after Aug. 15 because of the Topeka Shiner populations in the Rock River and Champepadan Creek. The small minnow is on the list of endangered species.

The Rock River project will include the installation of J-hooks and backsloping along a portion of the river 3.5 miles south of Luverne, while the Champepadan Creek project five miles northeast of Luverne will utilize a new bioengineering method of installing woody material (large and small tree branches) covered by a sod mat.

"The DNR has used it for about five years," said Bos, adding that it has shown to be successful and costs about one-tenth that of a J-hook project.

"Once the vegetation establishes itself through the sod mats, they have held and not deteriorated over the years," said Bos. "We're doing it on a smaller stream to see how well it works, and maybe then we'll try it on the Rock River, where you have higher velocities and more water."

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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