By Starrla Cray
WRIGHT, MEEKER, McLEOD, CARVER COUNTIES, MN In order to protect and improve water quality, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently awarded a total of $4 million in grants and loans to several groups in the state.
The Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) in the upper Mississippi basin received a $495,912 grant, and $1.2 million in loan funds for the Crow River watershed surface water runoff reduction.
“The majority of the grant money will be used to implement best management practices within the watershed,” CROW watershed coordinator Diane Sander said.
Best management practices, or BMPs, are government-applied measures to protect wildlife, air quality, and landscapes while developing domestic energy sources.
According to the CROW website, residents and landowners of the Crow River Watershed can apply for financial assistance for the installation of a variety of practices aimed at improving water quality in the Crow River.
The CROW can offer up to 50 percent cost share on BMP projects. Many landowners combine CROW funds with other cost share programs to obtain a higher percentage of cost share dollars.
CROW’s $1.2 million in loan funds is available for upgrades of non-compliant septic systems.
“It’s a 10-year loan with 3 percent interest,” Sander said.
The Crow River Watershed includes portions of 10 counties: Carver, McLeod, Wright, Meeker, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, Sibley, Pope, Stearns, and Renville.
Loan funds are earmarked for Wright, Meeker, and Kandiyohi counties, but if previous grant money runs out, some of the money might be transferred to McLeod, Sibley, and Renville counties, as well.
CROW submits a grant application through the MPCA each year. The MPCA has different programs that funnel money to other organizations, such as the Clean Water Partnership program, which was created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1987.
The Clean Water Fund was increased in 2008, when Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment, which raised state sales taxes from 6.5 percent to 6.875 percent.
According to the Department of Natural Resources website, proceeds from the increase are divided into various categories, including restoration of wetlands, prairies, forests, and wildlife habitats; enhancing water quality in lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater; supporting parks and trails; and preservation of arts, arts education, and Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage.
CROW plans to use its portion of the funds for shoreline stabilization, wetland restoration, installation of rain gardens and filter strips, and more.
“One of our long-term goals is to reduce the nutrients and sediment in the Crow River by 25 percent,” Sander said.
Landowners who enroll in a conservation reserve program (CRP) through CROW can get funding to add plants that are suited to that particular area.
Funds will also be used for educational purposes, according to Sander. From guest speakers in schools to workshops about shoreline restoration, there are a variety of ways CROW plans to educate the public about the importance of preserving and improving water quality.
CROW recently organized a storm water taskforce, which will help people learn the purpose of storm water ponds, and how to control runoff from yards and streets.
Keeping storm drains free from animal waste and leaf litter is also important, Sander said.
“Don’t blow grass clippings into the street, because it goes down the storm drain and adds phosphorus to the water,” she said.
Some fertilizer manufacturers have started selling “zero-phosphorus” products to help alleviate this issue, as well.
“A really easy thing people can do is pull their car onto their lawns when they’re washing it,” Sander said. “If it’s on the driveway, the dirty water and soap goes down the storm drain, which is bad for the water.”
The Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) was formed in 1999 as a result of heightened interest in the Crow River. The CROW joint powers board is made up of one representative from each of the 10 county boards that signed the agreement.
Local representatives include Ray Bayerl (McLeod), who also serves as secretary; Tim Lynch (Carver); Ron Kutzke (Meeker), who also serves as treasurer; and Jack Russek (Wright), who also serves as vice chair.
The CROW office is located at 311 Brighton Avenue, Suite C, in Buffalo, and can be reached at (763) 682-1933 ext. 112 or online at www.crowriver.org.