The City of Thief River Falls drinking water is taken from a 135 acre reservoir that is supplied by the Thief River and Red Lake River. Sedimentation and erosion have significant impacts to the waters in Pennington County. The reservoir is filling with sediment faster than expected. Buffers and side water inlets will help reduce sediment and improve water quality for these types of erosion. Buffers would also reduce nutrients polluting the waters in Pennington County and have a beneficial impact to the dissolved oxygen impairment on both the Red Lake and Thief River.
The Accelerated Water Quality Project Implementation Program will increase the connection between landowners, local government units and the landscape to accelerate efforts addressing non-point source loading to surface waters throughout the Red River Valley Conservation Service Area.
Funds are to be used to protect, enhance and restore water quality in lakes, rivers and streams and to protect groundwater and drinking water. Activities include structural and vegetative practices to reduce runoff and retain water on the land, feedlot water quality projects, SSTS abatement grants for low income individuals, and stream bank, stream channel and shoreline protection projects. For the fiscal year 2012, BWSR awarded 13 local governments with funds to complete 143 projects. More information is available in the detail reports below.
Funds are to be used to protect, enhance and restore water quality in lakes, rivers and streams and to protect groundwater and drinking water. Activities include structural and vegetative practices to reduce runoff and retain water on the land, feedlot water quality projects, SSTS abatement grants for low income individuals, and stream bank, stream channel and shoreline protection projects. For the fiscal year 2012, BWSR awarded 12 local governments with funds.
The Pennington SWCD has collaborated with Pennington County for several years to identify priority County Ditch reaches that are in need of buffers and grade stabilization structures. This cooperative effort has resulted in the reduction of nutrient and sediment delivery to the Red Lake River Watershed. Pennington SWCD has recently inventoried buffer and grade stabilization needs on three different County Ditch systems: 96, 21 and 16. A total of 23 miles of ditch has been inventoried, 15 miles of buffer are needed along with 81 grade stabilization structures.
Sediment and water quality issues are local priorities within the Thief River and Red Lake River watersheds, which have their confluence in the city of Thief River Falls. The 1W1P effort underway in the Red Lake River Watershed will identify opportunities for projects and practices that are targeted and result in measurable water quality benefits throughout the watershed using PTMApp.
Numerous County ditch systems in Pennington County end at a natural drainage prior to outleting into a river or other watercourse and these outlets can be in a very erosive state. The goal of this project is to inventory these systems to determine needs and prioritize projects for implementation.
The Thief River is impaired due to low Dissolved Oxygen and high Turbidity levels resulting from high sediment load. These impairments affect the drinking water supply of Thief River Falls in addition to fish spawning habitat and recreation. The Erosion, Sedimentation and Sediment Yield Report completed in 1996 found that 63% of the sediment originates from the streambank of the Thief River. The Pennington Soil and Water Conservation District is therefore targeting the major sediment sources along the river.
The Thief River is the source of drinking water for the City of Thief River Falls. The river's other designated uses also include recreation and aquatic life. Water quality monitoring conducted by local agencies discovered that the Thief River is not meeting state water quality standards for both turbidity (muddiness) and dissolved oxygen. Each year, approximately 12,376 tons of sediment is deposited into the Thief River Falls reservoir by the Thief River. That is the equivalent of over 1,200 dump trucks full of dirt.
In the early 1900s, a joint State and County drainage project constructed a 1 mile outlet channel to Grand Marais Creek to provide a shorter outlet to the Red River and effectively abandoned the lower 6 miles of the natural channel. In recent times, the ditch has eroded from its original shape to a channel of steep gradients and unstable banks. This has resulted in head cutting of the channel and nearly continuous channel erosion and bank sloughing with the effect of depositing up to an estimated annual average of 700 tons of sediment into the Red River.
The Halvorson Streambank Stabilization site is located three miles north of the City of Thief River Falls on the Thief River. The Thief River is impaired for low dissolved oxygen and turbidity. A TMDL study began in 2010. These impairments affect fish spawning habitat, recreation and the drinking water supply of Thief River Falls. Studies show that 63% of the sediment in the Thief River is coming from the banks of the river itself. Stabilizing this bank will reduce the turbidity and low dissolved oxygen impairments.
The 14,080 acre watershed of JD#30 and JD#18 drains into the Thief River four miles upstream of Thief River Falls. The City of Thief River Falls draws their drinking water from the reservoir the Thief River supplies. This reservoir is filling with sediment faster than anticipated. It was first estimated that the reservoir would require dredging every 50 years. The last dredging was needed in only 35 years at a price tag of $1.1 million. Treatment of the water for drinking is a major expense to the City.
The Ralph Engelstad Arena in Thief River Falls is the premier high school hockey arena in the State of Minnesota. The Arena fills two city blocks and is covered by 85-90% impervious (hard) surface. Rainfall events completely inundate roads and sidewalks, overloading the stormsewer system. Larger events cause water to stand high enough to reach the front steps to the Arena. Roof runoff produces large amounts of water running from the downspouts. Runoff has made sod establishment on the grounds difficult. Washouts have developed carrying sediment to the stormsewer.
This project will provide land and water managers in the Red River Basin with data and online tools to prioritize actions on the landscape that achieve water quality objectives identified in local and state plans. This will help identify strategically important locations for implementing erosion control and water management practices. Standardized watershed-based data products will be integrated into a web-based planning tool which will be added to the Red River Basin Decision Information Network (RRBDIN) being developed as part of the Red River Watershed Feasibility Study.
The Red Lake Watershed District will create an inspection database for 103E ditches under their drainage authority. The district will acquire a database software solution to conduct field inspections and to track ditch maintenance projects and use the software to facilitate compliance with state statutes. The project will also develop a process for completing the annual inspection and reporting requirements under Statue 103E.
Imminent Health Threat (IHT) systems are those that are discharging improperly treated human waste onto the ground surface or into surface waters. In addition to the potential water quality impacts, untreated sewage has the potential to introduce bacteria and viruses into the environment. When IHT systems are identified, county or city staff assist the homeowners through the process required to bring their systems into compliance with the septic ordinance.
Three streambank stabilization projects have been identified as high priority projects in the Thief River Falls Water Quality Study completed in 2017. The proposal will use a combination of bendway weirs, toe protection by building a floodplain bench and live stake plantings. It has been estimated that a total of 385 tons per year of sediment from these three locations is entering the river contributing to the impairment downstream.
The goal of the project is to identify priority locations for project implementation using the Prioritize, Targeting, and Measuring Application (PTMApp) in the Thief River Watershed. The PTMApp will be used to identify and evaluate the suitability and effectiveness of best management practices including treatment scenarios, and provide estimates of sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus delivered to the Thief River Watershed, which is impaired for sediment.