New conservation funds available for private landowners in the Midway and Nemadji watershedsAs part of President Obama’s $475 million pledge to clean up the great lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GRLI), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has been awarded GRLI funds for conservation projects in the Midway watershed in Carlton and South St. Louis counties and portions of the Nemadji watershed in Carlton County.
Carlton and southern St. Louis County landowners now have a unique funding opportunity to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat on their land. As part of President Obama’s $475 million pledge to clean up the great lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GRLI), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service has been awarded GRLI funds for conservation projects in the Midway watershed in Carlton and South St. Louis counties and portions of the Nemadji watershed in Carlton County. The waters of the Midway and the Nemadji eventually empty into Lake Superior and are part of the great lakes watershed priority areas.
Included in the priority areas are the impaired streams of North Fork Nemadji River, Deer Creek and Rock Creek. These streams are listed on the Federal List of Impaired Waters for turbidity, or cloudiness of the water, which in this case is caused predominately by sediment.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Nemadji has the highest sediment load of any Lake Superior tributary in Minnesota or Wisconsin, contributing more than 100,000 tons each year.
The Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has been working with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to carry out a Total Maximum Daily Load Study (TMDL) which is required to be completed by the state once a water body is listed impaired. During the TMDL project, sediment sources will be identified and goals of reducing the sediment load will be set through conservation implementation planning and public involvement.
Over the years, ongoing efforts in the Nemadji watershed have aimed at reducing the sediment load, primarily by slowing down and decreasing the amount of runoff. Researchers have found that historical logging and other changes in land use have reduced the moderating effects that native trees had during rainfalls. When the trees disappeared, the peak flows in the system increased, heightening the stream’s energy, and consequentially increasing erosion rates in the stream. The system is especially sensitive to erosion and slumping due to the predominance of clay soils in the area. Past and current efforts have focused on tree plantings in order to moderate rainfall as the trees once did years ago.
Ongoing efforts in the Midway watershed have focused on increasing forest cover to reduce stream temperatures. Forest cover near riparian areas is especially important for trout and other aquatic life that depend on cooler water temperatures to survive.
The new funds available will give landowners a chance help protect and improve these sensitive watersheds. The funds enhance two existing Farm Bill programs: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.
Qualified landowners could receive approximately 75 percent cost share for conservation practices such as tree plantings, fencing and watering systems for livestock, nutrient management for cropland, planting riparian buffers, and stream bank or shore land protection. Participants may also receive incentive payments.
For more information on other qualified practices and to sign up, call the Carlton County SWCD at 218-384-3891 or Kate Kubiak at the South St. Louis SWCD at 218-723-4867.