Wellhead Protection Conservation Easement Program, Phase 1 (FY 2010/2011)
This program is a part of a comprehensive clean water strategy to prevent sediment and nutrients from entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; protect groundwater and wetlands. Specifically the Wellhead Protection Conservation Easement program is targeted to protect drinking water through the Reinvest in Minnesota Program (RIM). In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, permanent conservation easements are purchased in areas where the vulnerability of the drinking water is designated as high or very high.In 1986, the Reinvest in Minnesota Resources Act was enacted to restore certain marginal and environmental sensitive agricultural land to protect soil and water quality and support fish and wildlife habitat.Utilizing the RIM conservation easement program, this program focused on converting agricultural land presently in production to native grasslands and wetlands in areas where the vulnerability of the drinking water is designated as high or very high by MDH.Restoring native grasslands within wellhead protection areas improves water quality by providing greater distance between drinking water sources and agricultural chemical use. Changing land use from agricultural production to restored grasslands and wetlands has produced dramatic, measurable improvements in drinking water quality.Lands that were targeted were new or existing USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts with cropping history. The easements funded under this program are permanent, whereas CRP easements are for 10-15 years. Participating landowners receive a payment to retire land in agricultural production and to establish buffers of native vegetation.Minnesota currently has just over 200,000 acres of Conservation Reserve Program easements in buffer practices at various stages of their 10-15 year contracts, some soon to expire. The drinking water and wellhead protection initiative compliments other programs, both existing and yet to be developed, over the next 25 years.
Land use conversion from agricultural land to conservation cover pro-vided on 650 acres of high or very high vulnerable wellhead areas. Evaluation and Outcome Plans: These RIM easements are a part of a comprehensive public-private partnership to establish and restore permanent conservation easements on riparian buffers to keep water on the land in order to decrease sediment, pollutant and nutrient transport, reduce hydrologic impacts to surface waters and increase infiltration for groundwater recharge.RIM easements are selected to meet local identified water quality goals within the larger scope of Minnesota's clean water efforts. The long-term evaluation of clean water fund projects will be monitored as part of the state's intensive watershed monitoring strategy. RIM easements are subject to ongoing inspection to ensure compliance for the duration of the easement in accor-dance with established guidelines.