Once known for its clean water, fertile soil, and healthy habitat, in more recent times the Heron Lake Watershed in southwestern Minnesota has been heavily impacted by pollution from intensive agriculture, feedlots, non-compliant septic systems, and urban stormwater runoff. The Heron Lake Watershed District is using this appropriation for public outreach and installation and monitoring of water quality improvement projects aimed at reducing sediment and nutrient loading for the benefit of public health, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
A Level III Feedlot Inventory in the West Fork Des Moines River Watershed identified the need for a new manure storage basin. The Heron Lake Watershed District will be partnering with Murray County, Murray Soil and Water Conservation District, and Southwest Prairie Technical Service Area to construct the basin to ensure that manure and milk house wastewater will be properly stored. In addition, the project will decrease the size and usage of open lots using buffer strip and pasture to significantly reduce nutrient loading.
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.
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.
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.
Water flows without concern for political jurisdiction boundaries. This often means project work requires a little more coordination. Jackson, Cottonwood and Murray County did the extra coordination to land a grant to reduce sediment to the West Fork of the Des Moines River. The approved grant has four separate projects inthree counties.Jackson County has two projects: the Federated Rural Electric Association sediment control structure and the City of Jackson bioswale.
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.