Farm Horizons, August 2011

CROW program offers incentives to improve water quality

By Ivan Raconteur

The Crow River Organization of Waters (CROW) has implemented a surface water runoff reduction project that involves the organization, along with local resource managers, working together to educate the public about efforts to improve water quality.

The goal of the program is to provide both information and incentives to help citizens reduce sediment and turbidity caused by surface water problems in the Crow River Watershed.

According to Dan Nadeau, CROW watershed resource specialist, the organization has secured $335,750 from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) through a Clean Water Partnership grant that can be used for cost sharing to give property owners an incentive to implement best management practices.

The purpose of the project is to promote positive land use changes, along with promoting a sense of watershed stewardship and awareness throughout the Crow River Watershed.

High turbidity is a known problem in many parts of the Crow River Watershed. The entire South Fork of the Crow River, main stem of the Crow River, and a small portion of the North Fork of the Crow River (near the confluence with the South Fork) have all been listed on Minnesota’s 303d Impaired waters list for turbidity.

However, Nadeau noted that there are many areas of the watershed that have been assessed, and are currently meeting state standards.

Nadeau explained that this project contains three main components; BMP installation, public outreach, and administration. All BMPs and public outreach efforts will focus on projects that prevent sediment/turbidity caused by surface water runoff, in order to reduce nutrients from entering the lakes and streams of the Crow River Watershed.

Specific project goals:

• Stabilize up to two shorelines to provide erosion control.

• Restore up to two wetlands to provide water quantity storage and associated water quality benefits.

• Provide a $100/acre incentive payment up to 120 acres in filter strips, riparian buffers and wetlands, with a minimum sign-up of 10 years into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with CP23, CP23a, CP27-28, CP37, CP21 and CP22 practices with a requirement on wetland practices that a tile must be broken and hydrologically restore a wetland with uplands not to exceed 15 acres or a 30-foot buffer.

• Install up to four rain gardens and purchase rain barrels to reduce nutrients and sediment from entering storm drains.

• Complete up to four shoreline naturalization projects to reduce erosion and sedimentation, as well as, filter runoff.

• Install up to four filter strips, waterways or sediment basins to help regulate water flow and reduce erosion.

• Provide a $100/acre incentive payment to enroll up to 330 acres into CRP or the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program.

• Provide the SSTS Obligation Notes for the following counties: Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Renville, and Wright.

• Upgrade up to 100 sub-surface treatment systems (SSTS) (septic systems) in: Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Renville, and Wright counties.

The CROW’s Technical Committee includes soil and water representatives from each of the 10 counties in the CROW watershed, as well as representatives from the MPCA, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), and Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

These BMP projects aid in the reduction of sediment and nutrients. The additional BMPs may be used based on new research and technology as approved by the technical committee.

Nadeau said CROW works closely with the soil and water conservation districts in each county, and this partnership has proved very successful.

About the Crow River watershed

The Crow River watershed is located in south-central Minnesota and has its confluence with the Mississippi River near Dayton in Wright County. Portions of 10 counties make up the 1.76 million-acre watershed. The Crow River watershed is made up of two major subwatersheds, the North Fork and the South Fork.

Ecoregions are geographical boundaries based on soil types, topography, vegetative cover, and underlying geology. Typical values for chemical and physical parameters have been compiled for Minnesota’s ecoregions by monitoring not impacted water bodies (lakes or streams with minimal human disturbance). These values are used to develop realistic expectations for how lakes or streams might be restored to a more “natural” state.

The significance of ecoregions in the Crow River watershed becomes apparent when we are comparing the data results to ecoregion averages in the 2003 Crow River Diagnostic Study. The diagnostic study found the Crow River, on average, loads 17-46 percent total phosphorus (TP) and 16-53 percent total suspended solids (TSS) to the Mississippi River.

In contrast, the Crow River’s contribution of water to the Mississippi River varies from 4-20 percent of the water volume. In terms of long-term management, the Crow River water quality goals are to reduce phosphorus levels to the ecoregion range. The TP values range from 100-150 ppb in the North Central Hardwood Forest (NCHF) and 250 ppb for the Western Corn Belt Plains (WCBP).

The Crow River watershed lies within two different ecoregions. Approximately 61 percent of the watershed is located within the NCHF ecoregion. The remaining 39 percent is located in the WCBP ecoregion. The boundaries between the North and South Fork Crow River subwatersheds is similar to the ecoregion boundary in that the majority of the North Fork subwatershed is located in the NCHF ecoregion, and the majority of the South Fork subwatershed is located in the WCBP ecoregion.

The new grant expires in June 2013, although the CROW is currently administering other grants with earlier expiration dates.

More information is available by contacting the CROW Organization of Water at:

311 Brighton Ave Suite C, Buffalo, MN 55313

(763) 682-1933 Ext. 122

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