This project will consist of identifying the candidate causes of biological stress and to develop and implement a public and stakeholder participation process that encourages local ownership of water quality problems and solutions. The Stressor ID process will be done using existing data, identifying data gaps, gathering new data, developing load duration curves, and refinement of the candidate causes. The civic engagement work will include compiling and reviewing existing data on community capacity and assessing that information.
This project will build network and the skill set of local resource professionals to do effective civic engagement work for water restoration and protection in Southeast Minnesota. The cohort will be administered through the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board (SE MN WRB) which is an area wide Joint Powers Board (JPB) established to help improve and protect the water resources of the area through coordinating local water planning efforts. This JPB has successfully administered water quality grants in the past that have positively impacted the water resources of this region.
The Discovery Farms program is a farmer-led effort to gather information on soil and nutrient loss on farms in different settings across Minnesota. The mission of Discovery Farms Minnesota is to gather water quality information under real-world conditions.
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.
LEQA is a Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) program to help livestock producers address, using a non-regulatory approach, the unique water quality issues on their farms. The MDA has contracted with Ag Resource Strategies, LLC, to recruit farmers to enroll in the LEQA program. The company trains technicians to assess different areas of each farms, such as the farmstead, livestock facilities, fields and wooded areas. The technicians then develop an environmental assessment and identify financial assistance for these projects.
The Minnesota Ag Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP) is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead on implementing conservation practices that protect water quality. Those who implement and maintain approved conservation practices will be certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years. This program will help address concerns about changing regulatory requirements from multiple state and federal agencies.
The VRWJPO is pursuing a Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) project in cooperation with the MPCA in order to better identify the sources of stress and impairment to the river, tributaries, and lakes and evaluate the feasibility of reaching water quality goals, and properly allocating pollution reduction goals to those areas identified as likely pollution sources. Successful restoration and protection outcomes are dependent on successful community building and ownership of both the problems and solutions identified in the WRAPS.
The goal is to develop the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) and a public and stakeholder participation process that encourages local involvement in water quality discussions and solutions, identifying impaired waters, developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs); and planning, setting priorities, and implementing the WRAPS recommendation to restore impaired waters. Phase II of the WRAPS will consists of developing TMDLs for the impaired reaches as well as developing the final WRAPS document and implementation planning.