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Watershed conservation projects impress tour group

October 13, 2008

By Caroline Wigmore
Staff Writer

CROW RIVER AREA – Area locals visited the sites of several environmental projects through a bus tour hosted by the Crow River Organization (CROW), Oct. 2.

The goal of the watershed is to improve water quality, and the tour highlighted several projects that worked toward this end.

With six stops along the way, locals were able to see the benefits of the recent conservation efforts and ask questions.

The first stop was the South Crow River dam, located in Hutchinson. In 2007, the City of Hutchinson began the major project of replacing the city’s concrete dam, as cracks and other signs of age were becoming a concern.

The dam project was completed in late 2007, having been constructed with more than 12,000 tons of rocks and boulders, which are arranged into nine weirs.

This dam has the special feature of rock ladders, which allow fish to navigate upstream. The old dam did not allow for the upstream passage of fish.

Locals praised the dam builders for using natural materials that will actually gain strength through the years as silt seals the rocks together.

The second stop was the Richard Kurth farm, located in Renville County. Kurth had sought assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) because of a problem he had with manure storage.

His farm contains 207 animals and only three months of under-barn storage. This meant that he was forced to spread manure during winter and spring, which was causing environmentally harmful runoff.

The solution was to construct a 100-foot-diameter concrete storage tank which allows for manure storage all-year-round.

Cost sharing for the manure storage project came from the landowner, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and Buffalo Creek 319 grant.

Kurth expressed gratitude for the assistance he received for the completion of this project.

The third stop was a global stream bank stabilization project located in McLeod County.

The house on the property is located near the banks of the Buffalo Creek, which was experiencing severe erosion and was growing close to the house’s foundation. A weir was constructed to divert water away from the house, as well as rock to stabilize the bank. This project was completed by the Buffalo Creek Watershed District and McLeod NRCS.

The bus drove by Schaefer Prairie, located in McLeod County, seven miles southwest of Glencoe, which is a remnant of the once vast, northern tall grass prairie that at one time covered millions of acres in Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Iowa. Today, the prairie remnant is protected, and home to an estimated 275 plant species.

The fifth stop took the tour to the Glencoe wastewater treatment plant. The Buffalo Creek makes a turn adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant, where the outside of the bank was failing, causing structures associated with the wastewater treatment plant to be compromised. The bank has now been stabilized and the problem is under control.

The last stop was Christ Lutheran Church in Glencoe, where a rain garden was installed. The garden makes use of rainwater that comes through the gutters, which would otherwise create unwanted runoff.

The rain garden was sponsored by CROW.

“People enjoyed seeing a variety of conservation projects on the ground and how many different agencies and partners are involved with water quality improvements in the Buffalo Creek Area and Crow River Watershed,” Diane Sander, watershed coordinator, said.

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