Granite rock outcrops along the Upper Minnesota River are among the oldest exposed rock in North America, dating back approximately 3.6 billion years. These outcrops are also home to rare and specialized plant and animal communities rarely found elsewhere in Minnesota, including several types of cactus and one of Minnesota's only three lizard species, the five-lined skink. However, these rock outcrops are increasingly threatened by mining, overgrazing, and development.
The Redwood and Cottonwood River Watersheds have been assessed and many reaches have been impaired for turbidity, bacteria, and low dissolved oxygen. This project will accelerate conservation efforts to reduce overland runoff sediment, bacteria, and nutrient loadings contributing to water quality impairments in targeted subwatersheds.
The Redwood River and Cottonwood River watersheds encompass approximately 2,020 square miles of southwestern Minnesota in the Minnesota River Basin. Land use in these watersheds is mostly agricultural and area geology makes them prone to erosion. Surface water issues within the two watersheds are a concern of local leaders. The counties and Soil and Water Conservation District leaders formed the Redwood Cottonwood Rivers Control Area (RCRCA) Joint Powers Board in 1983 to address sedimentation, water quality and quantity, and erosion issues.
Pell Creek is a tributary to the Cottonwood River, one of the thirteen major watersheds in the Minnesota River Basin and the largest watershed in Redwood County. The dominant land use is agricultural, chiefly row-crops with some livestock production. The vast majority of the wetlands have been drained through a highly intricate and efficient system of tiling and ditching.
The soil and water conservation districts within the watersheds for the Redwood and Cottonwood Rivers have been putting conservation practices on the ground for years in a long-running collaborative effort.
The Southwest Prairie Technical Service Area 5 (SWPTSA), located in the southwest corner of Minnesota, encompasses 11 Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs): Cottonwood, Jackson, Lac Qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood, Rock, and Yellow Medicine. This project will protect natural resources within the three major river basins of Minnesota, Missouri and Des Moines Rivers. The SWPTSA will assist member SWCDs in locating and identifying priority subwatersheds that have soil erosion and water quality issues using terrain analysis.