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In This Issue
Completed stormwater treatment project at Community of Christ Church in Apple Valley


 

 
Pickerel Lake
Staff collect water samples
Interested in getting involved?
Join the citizen monitoring program.  Training and materials provided, must have your own watercraft. Call 651-480-7777.

 

 
Crews oversee controlled prairie burn, May 2015
 
The Native Prairie Restoration Project provides a good example of cooperation between local, county, state, federal, and non-profit organizations to restore and protect wildlife habitat and water quality.

 
Raingarden planting improves water infiltration and beautifies property
 
Shoreline restoration improves water quality and provides wildlife habitat 
 
Native planting helps pollinators and anchors soil
 
Consuming water with elevated nitrate could have implications for your health
 
Cover crop establishment in corn - one of many strategies utilized by producers for nutrient management
 

Interested in taking action? Financial and technical assistance for reducing nitrate is available. Call the SWCD at 651-480-7777.



Interested in testing your private well? Dakota County residents can pick up a water testing kit at the Dakota County Western Service Center or request one be mailed by calling 952-981-7000.


 

 
Kayla Horan,
Program Specialist

 
Ashley Gallagher,
Resource Conservationist

 

Partners in Conservation
 

SWCD Partners with Churches, Homeowner Associations, and Businesses in Projects to Improve Water Quality!


SWCD staff recently launched a project to improve water quality in partnership with Bethesda Lutheran Church in Inver Grove Heights.  The project will treat stormwater runoff from the church parking lot before it enters Seidl’s Lake, which is located in South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights. 

The stormwater treatment strategy involves a bioretention basin installed in one corner of the parking lot.  Bioretention basins use natural processes to filter rainwater, help it soak into the ground, and cleanse the stormwater runoff before it moves downstream.   Native plants will also be incorporated into the basin to promote pollinator habitat.  Through the Conservation Initiative Funding program, the SWCD provides design, planning, construction oversight, and funding assistance for projects such as this.
 
The SWCD is always looking for partners on conservation projects to reduce pollutants entering the waterbodies of Dakota County.  Contact the SWCD if you know of a church, homeowner association, or business that may be interested in a project to improve water quality while establishing pollinator habitat.

Pickerel Lake - So, How's the Water?

Pickerel Lake is a floodplain lake along the Mississippi River bottoms within the City of Lilydale and St. Paul.  Occasionally, the Mississippi River floods and fills the lake with dirty water; but how does the lake fare in years when the river doesn’t flood? Is it meeting water quality goals? In order to find out, the Lower Mississippi River Watershed Management Organization (LMRWMO) is sponsoring monitoring activities during the summer of 2015, to be conducted by Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff.

The SWCD will investigate several eutrophication parameters, in other words, those that indicate if algal blooms are occurring or are likely to occur. Eutrophic lakes are high in nutrients, can appear green in color, can have an unpleasant odor, and are generally poor for water recreation.

Some of the things they’ll look for include;
  • Phosphorus – algae require phosphorus to grow in size and in number. More phosphorus means more fuel for algae to grow.
  • Chlorophyll a – the pigment molecule that plants use for photosynthesis. It’s an easy way to estimate how much algae is in the water.
  • Secchi transparency – a simple and inexpensive way to measure the clarity of the water.

Restored Prairie - Time for Maintenace

A creative partnership between the Dakota County SWCD, the Dakota County Agricultural Society (Fair Board), and several local wildlife organizations has provided a unique water quality and wildlife habitat restoration area in Dakota County.
 
The Fair Board owns 210 acres of land just outside of Farmington. Most of the property was farmed until 2000, when the SWCD partnered with the Fair Board and the local chapters of Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Waterfowl Association, and Southern Dakota County Sportsmen’s Association to secure grant funding from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to transform the farmland into wildlife habitat and establish the site as an outdoor education facility. In the summer of 2000, the funding was used to plant over 60 different species of native wildflowers, 25 different species of native grass, and 2,000 trees.
 
This native vegetation has thrived since its establishment, but it does require some ongoing maintenance. This site is particularly susceptible to invasion by undesired woody vegetation like cottonwoods, willows, box elder and buckthorn. The SWCD secured Minnesota DNR grant funding to hire certified crews to complete controlled burns of the native prairie, and remove any remaining unwanted trees. Periodic controlled burns are needed to reduce the woody vegetation pressure, eliminate underlying dead plant matter, and rejuvenate new growth. The most recent of these controlled burns was completed in early May.

Shovels in the Ground - Celebrating Completed Projects

Landscaping for Clean Water Workshops provide residents with the knowledge and resources to install planting projects on their property that improve water quality, anchor soil, provide wildlife and pollinator habitat, and beautify their landscape. Through a series of workshops, homeowners learn about the benefits of native gardens, raingardens, and native shorelines, and also get one-on-one assistance to develop a plan that is specific to their property characteristics and overall landscape goals.

Since the program started in 2007, more than 3,000 people have participated in workshops and nearly 300 projects have been installed. One workshop participant said, “The resources we got through the workshops are phenomenal! I found that the advice you all had to offer regarding the process was ALWAYS the right way to go.”

Project funds are provided by Dakota County watershed management organizations and cities; technical assistance is provided by Dakota SWCD staff. You can view an interactive map of completed projects, as well as other program projects, by visiting our website at www.dakotaswcd.org . 

Interested in a project on your property? Keep an eye out for the 2016 schedule, available this winter.

Nitrate Pollution Trending Upward


Researchers have been monitoring nitrate in Dakota County for more than a decade and have measured nitrate concentrations that are high and going higher.


Consumption of water with elevated nitrate could cause serious health problems because it reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells. This is particularly dangerous for infants. High nitrate can also be toxic to aquatic animals. The US Environmental Pollution Control Agency (EPA) has set a standard which defines the amount of nitrate allowed in drinking water in order to protect public health.

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture recently funded a study of private drinking water wells in Dakota County and found that 24% of households exceeded the drinking water standard. In one township, 53% of wells exceeded the standard.

Nitrate pollution of shallow groundwater is common among agriculturally dominated watersheds with coarse textured soils. Upon application to a field, the nitrogen not utilized by plants leaches into the ground and either moves into nearby lakes, streams, aquifers, and wells or can be carried by tile drainage directly into a stream. Nitrate fertilizer may come in the form of anhydrous ammonia, urea, or ammonium nitrate. When fertilizer is applied to the land in excess of recommended amounts, at the wrong times of the year, or where shallow groundwater is common, the potential for nitrate contamination is much greater. Some other smaller sources of nitrate include plant decay, and human and animal waste.

Drinking water from municipalities is also being affected. The City of Hastings has installed a costly nitrate removal system to ensure that distributed drinking water meets the standard. Testing of raw water, that which has not yet been treated, indicates that nitrate pollution is still increasing.

Although many area landowners have initiated conservation and nutrient management practices that will improve water quality in the long run, results indicate that current efforts are not enough.

SWCD Welcomes Kayla Horan and Ashley Gallagher!

We are pleased to welcome Kayla Horan as the Program Specialist. Kayla will be assisting with a variety of tasks including meeting and greeting customers as you walk into the SWCD office.   Two other focused activities for Kayla will be Landscaping for Clean Water Workshops, which assists landowners with the installation of native gardens, raingardens and shoreline restoration projects and water monitoring. 
 
She graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and environmental sustainability.  Kayla began here as our summer apprentice in 2014 and will continue to apply those skills to assist landowners with conservation practices.   She appreciates working outdoors and enjoys kayaking in her free time.

We also extend a warm welcome to Ashley Gallagher as our newest Resource Conservationist.  Ashley will be working with a variety of programs but will have a primary focus on rural land conservation efforts.  She will be assisting landowners with technical information, conducting site assessments for developing conservation plans, and installing water quality improvement practices.
 
Ashley is originally from Rosemount, Minnesota.  She attended the University of Minnesota, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.  She’s worked for various local and state governments, as well as non-profits, including Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) MinnAqua Program, Minneapolis Park Board Environmental Programs, and Friends of the Mississippi River. Her Soil and Water Conservation District experience includes two years in Storm Lake, Iowa as the Mississippi River Basin Initiative project coordinator. Most recently, she comes from Rice SWCD where she was a District Technician for three years.  She has enjoyed working with people to help them meet their conservation goals, and is looking forward to meeting many new homeowners, landowners and farmers in Dakota County!
Copyright © 2015 Dakota County Soil & Water Conservation District, All rights reserved.


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