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Opinion: Legacy funds helping this area

More than 550 environmental projects have been funded in northern Minnesota thanks to the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment — and the improvements are starting to add up.

Through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) Clean Water Fund grant program, nearly $60 million has been invested in “on-the-ground” projects, where citizens and local governments are installing conservation practices to improve the quality of lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.

A few examples of projects in northern Minnesota that have made environmental impacts include:

  • Protecting groundwater in Otter Tail County – The East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District received an $87,371 Clean Water Fund grant to provide cost-share for farmers to convert irrigation systems to low pressure — and to help prevent overwatering, which can contaminate groundwater. Through this project, the East Otter Tail SWCD funded nine cost-share contracts, resulting in 11 low pressure conversions on a total of 632 acres. In addition, 18 fields were enrolled into an irrigations scheduling program for at least two years. The project significantly reduces the amount of nitrates entering the groundwater resources in Otter Tail County.
  • Targeting projects around the Buffalo River: A $135,636 Clean Water Fund grant gave the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District the ability to use targeting tools to identify existing and potential areas of high sediment contributions to the river, and to complete projects that addressed those areas. Nine water and sediment control basins and 17 side inlet sediment controls were installed, reducing pollutants to the South branch of the Buffalo River.
  • Cleaning up the Knife River: Through an $18,000 Clean Water Fund grant, the Lake County SWCD used natural channel design to stabilize a section of eroding stream bank on the Knife River. The project used all natural materials — tree trunks, root wads, brush, clay, fine soil and sod mats of willow, dogwood and alder. Less than one year after installation, the project was tested during the 2012 flood and successfully protected the streambank with no slumping or major erosion.

BWSR’s Executive Director, John Jaschke, said investments made through these grant programs are noticeably improving Minnesota’s lakes and rivers.

“Because of the Legacy funding, we’ve been able to complete more conservation projects than ever before,” Jaschke said.

“All across the state, lakes and rivers are being cleaned up or protected and the funding is also benefitting jobs and property values in local communities. It’s a win-win situation.”

From now through Oct. 4, more money will become available for similar projects across Minnesota.

BWSR will accept grant applications, and local units of government can compete for more than $17 million for projects that will protect and restore Minnesota’s streams, rivers, lakes and groundwater.

A different Legacy grant program means nearly $500,000 for the upper area of the Sucker Creek Preserve on the south shore of Detroit Lake.

 Legacy funds appear to be working well for Minnesota.