With limited funds and limited staff time available for targeting critical service areas and implementing Best Management Practices (BMPs), Geographic Information System (GIS)-based tools that pinpoint locations where BMPs will have the highest effectiveness are increasingly important. The Blue Earth County/SWCD Watershed Implementation Targeting project will utilize LiDAR topographic data to determine areas of high importance for BMP implementation. The county is located in the Blue Earth, LeSueur, Watonwan and Middle Minnesota watersheds where there is a high density of impaired waters.
Currently, over 235 miles of open ditch are under the jurisdiction of the Brown County Ditch Authority. A majority of Brown County public ditches drain into large, impaired rivers including the Minnesota River (Turbidity), Cottonwood River (Turbidity/Fecal Coliform), Little Cottonwood River (Turbidity/Fecal Coliform) and Watonwan River (Turbidity/Fecal Coliform). Thus far the Brown County Drainage Authority has been inventorying ditches as requested for repair by residents in the ditch system.
The Drinking Water Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CEC) program identifies environmental contaminants for which current health-based standards currently do not exist or need to be updated, investigate the potential for human exposure to these chemicals, and develop guidance values for drinking water. Contaminants evaluated by CEC staff include contaminants that have been released or detected in Minnesota waters (surface water and groundwater) or that have the potential to migrate to or be detected in Minnesota waters.
The Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance (GBERBA) along with Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Counties, landowners, and drainage authorities in the ten member counties will install conservation drainage practices to improve water quality. 103E drainage systems with documented sediment or water quality issues are the focus with the goal of installing 52 practices such as improved side inlets (grade stabilization structures), alternative tile inlets, denitrifying bioreactors, saturated buffers, storage wetlands and others.
The Watonwan Watershed Technician will provide highly focused targeting of conservation programs and practices. The technician will enhance current staff capabilities in the Watonwan watershed by collecting landowner contact information from previous studies and GIS methods, produce mass mailings about funding opportunities, and meet one-on-one with landowners to discuss their conservation concerns. The technician will implement 45 projects/practices over a three year period.
With the completion of LiDAR data in southern Minnesota, it is imperative to use this data as effectively as possible. In order to do so, the Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance (GBERBA) will contract with a vendor to complete a Geographic Information System (GIS) terrain analysis in subsheds of the Watonwan River watershed. This inventory will utilize the State of Minnesota LiDAR elevation datasets to create many GIS datasets by spatially analyzing the elevation data.
The Watonwan Watershed Resource Specialist has been funding with Clean Water funds since 2012. Since that time, the Watonwan Watershed Resource Specialist has been a crucial connector between landowners and natural resource professionals in the Watonwan Watershed. As the technical ability and responsibilities of the WWRS expands, the need and urgency to secure extended funding becomes a priority. This project will fund half of the Watonwan Watershed Research Specialist position through year 2020.