Farmland is part of Minnesota's plan to improve impaired waters
Grants from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources have been distributed in areas directly affecting impaired waters. 53 lakes, and segments of rivers and streams are proposed for delisting this year.
Clean Water Funds from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources supported conservation work that contributed to some lakes, rivers and streams earning a spot on the list of waters slated to be removed from the state’s impaired waters list in 2022.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is accepting comments through Jan. 7 on its proposed list of removals and additions to the 2022 impaired waters list. The agency has proposed delisting 53 lakes and segments of rivers and streams. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approval finalizes that status.
The MPCA draft noted 13 of the 53 could be directly tied to a particular restoration effort, some of which involve nearby farmland. The number directly attributed to restoration efforts likely will change as conservation staff throughout the state review and respond to the MPCA draft, according to a press release from BWSR.
Clean Water Funds require a match, with total project costs potentially drawing from local, state and federal funds.
Pope Soil & Water Conservation District Manager Holly Kovarik said the rise in proposed delistings coincides with the number of projects targeting impaired waters across the state.
“The goal is to move that needle of progress towards improvement in our resources, and this is what we may see in the future, on a grander scale,” Kovarik said.
Farmland along Outlet Creek near Starbuck and Pelican Creek in Grant County were involved in Board of Water and Soil Resources-led restoration efforts to improve impaired waters.
Grant Soil and Water Conservation District conservation work along Pelican Creek dates to the 1970s.
From the Grant County line near Ashby, the delisted segment of Pelican Creek flows south and then west, skirting Pelican Lake and meandering across farmland on its way to the Pomme de Terre River. The Pelican Creek subwatershed is a focus of the current Pomme de Terre River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan.
A fenced cattle exclusion on 10 acres adjacent to the creek and another landowner’s installation of five water and sediment control basins directly affecting the creek drew Clean Water Fund grants awarded to the Pomme de Terre River Association Joint Powers Organization in 2012 and 2014. The JPO serves as the fiscal agent, and SWCDs within its boundaries approve grant-funded projects.
The creek was listed as impaired for aquatic life in 2012.
“Essentially that is an indicator of everything upstream, and some of our biggest recreational lakes in the county are there, Pelican Lake being one,” said Jared House, Grant SWCD administrative manager.
He said additionally, the creek is a conduit to the Pomme de Terre River, which called a "huge recreational river for fishing and kayaking.”
Outlet Creek was listed in 2012 as impaired for aquatic life. The creek, which flows from Lake Minnewaska across rolling farmland and glacial hills to Lake Emily southwest of Starbuck, lies within the Lake Emily watershed. The watershed is the focus of four Clean Water Fund grants from the Board of Water and Soil Resources.
A Clean Water Fund grant in 2015 covered a water quality assessment and project prioritization, and implementation grants followed in each of the next three years.
According to BWSR, 34 of the 54 erosion control practices — 27 of which were water and sediment control basins "directly affected" Outlet Creek. Those projects combined to keep an estimated 2,237 tons of sediment and 2,565 pounds of phosphorus out of the creek annually, said BWSR.
“Everything that we’re doing is definitely going to help slow down the water as it gets to Outlet Creek. We’re keeping sediment on the fields,” Kovarik said. But that there was still work left to do in the watershed.
The third phase of the Lake Emily watershed targeted implementation project is funded by a $182,500 grant awarded in 2018. Three more projects are planned before that grant closes in April.
“You get a project accomplished that worked well, and it builds upon the next project." Kovarik said. "A lot of these landowners, we’ve done multiple projects with them. Success builds on success."