Efforts move forward for
area Minnesota and Iowa watershed
Tuesday, October 16, 2012 4:59 AM
Bee and Duck creeks are the two main streams in Houston County that at the Iowa state line form the headwaters of the Waterloo Creek in Allamakee County.
The Bee and Duck Creek Watershed committee is working jointly with the Waterloo Creek Advisory Committee in efforts to improve water quality in the creeks, improve aquatic habitat for cold water fish species (trout), reduce soil erosion on agricultural land, lower turbidity and improve water clarity in the watersheds streams, and remove Waterloo Creek from the Iowa Impaired Waters List.
The watershed area on the Minnesota side includes 12,980 acres, while the Waterloo Creek area includes 13,034 acres.
On Sept. 25, representatives of the Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Hiawatha Valley Resource Conservation and Development, called together technical providers, landowners and resource organizations to discuss how the project can move forward, as well as to find ways for the two states to work together and be a role model. A total of 21 attended the meeting at the Fest Building in Spring Grove.
John Beckwith, executive director, and Suzy Meneguzzo, program coordinator with Hiawatha Valley RC&D, USDA, NRCS - Rochester, led and moderated the meeting.
"We've had three large meetings with landowners, and the group's goal is a 50 percent reduction in peak flow released into Iowa from significant events," Roger Stenhoff, chairman of the Bee and Duck Creek watershed committee, stated.
Over the last four years, the committee has held numerous meetings with landowners and technical and resource providers, and has met jointly with the Waterloo Creek committee.
"We have a lot of support out there and, from what I've been hearing, it's (goal) achievable."
Both watershed committees have conducted landowner surveys.
A great deal of the watershed consists of drainage from dry runs. Most landowners are using good farming practices, but there are big operations that need to change their ways.
The group would like to see changes in farming practices that support this outcome.
Minimum tillage practices, waterways and control structures help hold the soil upland. Also, fall seeding with a cover crop of oats or rye helps hold the soil and is good nutrition for the soil.
"Most landowners are using good farming practices, but we ALL have to be stewards of the land and take care of it," stated local landowner Daniel Griffin.
Funding and technical support
The main challenges to moving projects forward include availability of funding and working across two state lines and two EPA districts.
"Working across two states is a unique situation," stated Jacob Groth, soil conservationist, NRCS of Waukon, Iowa.
"We are getting a plan together to see if there are federal funds for a 3 to 4 year watershed technical position with both states splitting the time and cost."
In August, an Iowa project grant with a maximum of $100,000 was awarded for practices in Iowa on grade stabilization, ponds and terraces. They will try to get other grants to supplement. Some have up to 75 percent cost share for landowner.
Ron Meiners, Houston County soil conservationist with the Root River Soil and Water Conservation staff, announced they are pursuing a grant opportunity through the Clean Water Legacy legislation, where sites in Bee/Duck Creek Watershed would be eligible for cost share funds.
EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) would provide 100 percent cost share for flood control projects. They are looking at projects of about $60-80,000.
RRSWCD is working on a countywide request and wondered if there were willing landowners. Projects would need to be identified and ready to go. A plan would have to be ready when the Root River Comprehensive Watershed Plan is due to be rewritten in 2017.
Contacts will be made to determine if a federal special designation can be made for the watershed.
It was learned that Trout Unlimited also has some restoration dollars for streams.
To obtain Clean Water Legacy funds, the local watershed must develop a plan and take it to the Legislature for approval. The Clean Water Legacy application was mostly for Root River with some for Crooked Creek and Bee/Duck Creek with potential sites identified with the latter, he noted.
"We need help from counties with compliance and conditional use permitting," Steve Klotz, area fish supervisor with MnDNR pointed out. "These agencies need to look at these issues harder, making sure they are good in this particular location with its karst topography."
"This watershed has a lot of momentum and working with conservationists will accelerate that," Klotz added. Beckwith will assist Stenhoff in drafting a letter to the NRCS.
Next steps outlined
Efforts will be made to resolve the EPA regional issues and funding across state lines, which is a significant issue and also to get agencies on the same track with Minnesota/Iowa monitoring, planning and implementation is important.
Beckwith encouraged the group to meet with both state conservation districts to discuss target options.
"You need to go to EPA folks and get them to tell us how to do this," was the summary statement from Menegozzo about the two states working together.
"This is a beautiful, beautiful area, and landowners have a long tradition of watershed practices," Beckwith stated adding, "You have a rich sense of people who care for the land.
"There is a willingness and anxiousness to get something done, and landowners need technical help to get this going."
Farmers take the lead
There was interest in having farmers take the lead on how to make a difference.
After discussion, it was decided to have the Hiawatha Valley RC&D facilitate a MN/IA farmer/landowner meeting, to get the local buy-in and to discuss and talk about practices they can do to make improvements to the watershed.
It would be important to focus on the 50 percent reduction goal, and to be specific with technical information to keep their interests in what's offered, Beckwith urged. "There is a lot of value in the technology lines."
Stenhoff added, "Have a geologist there to explain surface and ground water connection."
And, it would be helpful to address known issues. As an example, Meiners would be willing to do a review of what happened and was done in the newly formed Winnebago Watershed, providing help with questions about funding, where it is available and how to get it.
Stenhoff will schedule a meeting date probably in January 2013.