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Legacy grant helps fund improvements at rural Lakefield WMA

Increasing storage capacity in 62-acre wetland involved a partnership between the Heron Lake Watershed District, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District and landowners in the Judicial Ditch 19 system.

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An aerial view of the Toe Wildlife Management Area east of Lakefield this summer shows the berm created on the 62-acre wetland to improve water storage capacity and reduce flooding for landowners in the Judicial Ditch 19 system. (Special to The Globe)

LAKEFIELD — The Heron Lake Watershed District, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Jackson County Soil and Water Conservation District, has completed restoration of a 62-acre wetland in the Toe Wildlife Management Area, two and a half miles east of Lakefield on Jackson County State Aid Highway 14.

The project was awarded a $21,661 Expedited Conservation Partners Legacy grant (dollars generated by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment), which covered about half of the cost. Landowners within Judicial Ditch 19 were assessed the remainder of the cost, and will benefit from the project as it reduces flooding, improves water quality, enhances vegetative and wildlife habitat, alleviates erosion and reestablishes native prairie and pollinator buffer habitat.

The wetland is a fraction of the 342.48-acre Toe WMA.

“When landowners petitioned for improvements of JD19, we asked the DNR if we could work with them to do some flood storage within the system,” shared HLWD Administrator Jan Voit this week.

The project included removing 100 linear feet of tile and installing a berm to increase storage capacity in the WMA’s existing wetland. Adding more storage will help to reduce pollutants, including total suspended solids and nitrates that were previously leaving the wetland during high water flows.


Voit said the grant was awarded for the project in December 2017, but a couple of wet years prevented any work from being done.

“It wasn’t until December 2019 that the control structure was placed at the outlet of the wetland,” she said. “Then, the remaining construction was done in May and June of 2020.”

Since then, a lack of measurable rainfall has caused the wetland to dry up.

Voit said during larger rain events, the improvements made to the Toe WMA will reduce pressure on tile lines of landowners in the JD19 system.

“It should cause less flooding on their properties,” she added.

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Construction of a berm in the Toe Wildlife Management Area wetland was completed in June. (Special to The Globe)

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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