For Cleaner Water
       & Fewer Floods  

Area Events & Workshops

  • 06 Apr 2015 3:37 PM | Anonymous

    Study: Minn. converted more wetlands than any other state when crop prices spiked

    Business Elizabeth Dunbar ·
    This map by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers represents the amount of new cropland expansion as compared to existing cropland in 2008. Areas in red are hot spots where the amount of cropland more than doubled between 2008 and 2012. 
  • 03 Apr 2015 11:19 AM | Anonymous

    Gov. Mark Dayton stopped in Austin Thursday to hear solutions from farmers and landowners alike on a proposed water quality bill to add more buffer strip land throughout the state.

    More than 200 people gathered at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center Thursday afternoon to weigh in on legislation to require 50-foot buffer strips around Minnesota’s water systems.

    Under a bill before legislators, landowners would have to install at least 50 feet of perennial vegetation — also known as a buffer strip — to help filter phosphates, nitrates, sediments and other potential pollutants from water running into the state’s rivers, lakes and streams.

    Gov. Mark Dayton listens to a speaker during Thursday’s forum.
    Gov. Mark Dayton listens to a speaker during Thursday’s forum.

    Dayton, along with various local and state officials, told the audience the proposal is meant to stem increasing water pollution concerns, especially after a recent Minnesota Pollution Control Agency report showed all but one out of 97 streams weren’t suited to drink or to use in water activities.

    “It’s everybody’s problem and it needs to be everybody’s solution,” Dayton said.

    Dayton’s proposal would add about 125,000 acres of buffer-stripped land throughout the state. Though there are several exceptions to the bill — beaches would be exempt from the buffer strip requirement, for example — some landowners and farmers were concerned the legislation would provide a one-size-fits-all solution to a complex problem.

    Mark Novak, a farmer near Wells, Minnesota, said he already had about 33 feet of buffer strip lining his land near the ditches.

    “With 33 feet, very little water from my land is going into the ditch,” he said. “You want me to add another 15 feet?”

    Bruce Peterson, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, defended the state agricultural industry’s track record on water runoff and said many farmers and agricultural companies are improving water quality through better technology and farming practices.

    “I simply believe that one size does not fit all,” he said.

    Yet farmers disagreed over whether buffer strips were necessary. One farmer said buffer strips on his land had helped filter rain water on his property since the 1970s, while another farmer said the government was, in essence, stealing several acres of his land that could be used for crops.

    Mower County Farm Bureau President Marlin Fay called on Dayton and state officials to slow momentum on the bill until more research could be done, but Dayton said he would stand firm on getting water quality solutions like the buffer strip bill passed sooner than later.

    Jim O’Connor of rural Blooming Prairie speaks at a forum for Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed buffer strip plan Thursday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Eric Johnson/
    Jim O’Connor of rural Blooming Prairie speaks at a forum for Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed buffer strip plan Thursday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center. Eric Johnson/

    “The fact is, things are not getting better, they’re getting worse and more polluted,” Dayton said.

    After the meeting, Dayton said state officials could look into several measures proposed by the audience, which included more funding for soil and water conservation districts and reduced taxes on buffer strip land.

    Richard King, who owns farm land near Windom Township, said he supported the buffer strip proposal as well as a negative tax for the subsequent acres affected by the bill.

    “If you put a negative tax on the buffer zone, they’re going to go for it more,” he said.

    Dayton stopped in Worthington as well Thursday to discuss the proposal. Lawmakers will debate Dayton’s measure, as well as several other environmental proposals, over the next few weeks.

  • 01 Apr 2015 4:29 PM | Anonymous

    News Release


    Three Minnesota Rivers Moving to Canada

    By Aquatic Press Associates

    In an unprecedented move, three Minnesota Rivers, the Rock River, the Little Sioux River, and the Big Sioux River have begun moving from their banks in southwestern Minnesota to new river beds in Alberta, Canada.

    “We’ve been waiting for 40 years for landowners to show us the respect we deserve and we’ve finally had enough of their dawdling and delay,” said the Rock River on Wednesday. “If  Minnesotans aren’t going to take care of us, then we’re moving to a place that values clean water and cleaning up rivers.”

    “We’ve been waiting for 40 years for landowners to show us the respect we deserve and we’ve finally had enough of their dawdling and delay,” said the Rock River on Wednesday. “If  Minnesotans aren’t going to take care of us, then we’re moving to a place that values clean water and cleaning up rivers.”

    The move happens on the heels of a report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that determined that no lakes and only one stream southwestern Minnesota were swimmable and fishable, due primarily to high levels of manure bacteria, fertilizer pollution, and sediment from livestock and crop farming operations in the intensively agricultural region.

    “How hard would it be to plant a few grass buffers on a river?” said the Big Sioux River. “In my day, landowners took care of the land. Now I’m not so sure.”

    Canadian officials expressed excitement that the three rivers will be moving to the relatively dry prairie region in western Canada. They did point out that rivers will have to go through a month-long quarantine, leave excess fertilizers and bacteria in North Dakota before crossing the border, and henceforth measure their volume in liters.

  • 20 Mar 2015 1:58 PM | Anonymous

    Southeast Minnesota Cover Crop Producer Meeting

    Date: March 25, 2015 Time: Registration – 9:30 a.m., Program – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

    Where: Zumbrota VFW 25 1st Street East Zumbrota, MN 55992  Phone: 507-732-7123

    Cost: $5.00 (includes morning break, noon meal and handouts)

    Please RSVP to your local SWCD office by March 20th, 2015

    Goodhue SWCD - Coty Hellengren, 651-923-5286, ext.117

    Olmsted SWCD - Skip Langer, 507-280-2850, ext. 110

    Rice SWCD - Travis Hirman, 507-332-7418, ext. 126

    Scott SWCD - Todd Kavitz, 952-492-5457 (direct line)

    Wabasha SWCD - Matt Kruger, 651-565-4673, ext.110


    Reagan Noland, University of Minnesota, Forage and Cover Crop Research Student –

    Presenting current Minnesota studies.

    Jim Paulson, University of Minnesota, Forage Nutritionist – Feeding cover crops to dairy and beef cattle. And the value to sell cover crops.

    Heidi Peterson, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Research Coordinator – Update on current and future cover crop research

    Kevin Kuehner, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Watershed Monitoring – What is leaving your land with runoff and how much is it costing you.

    Producer & Industry Panel Discussion

    Andy Hart  (Corn, Soybean, Canning Crops Producer – Elgin, MN) Air- seeding cover crops & strip tillage, do they work, when they might not

    Gene Kuntz & Jim Purfeerst (Rice County Soil Health Group – Rice County, MN) Results on 2014 inter-seeding and the effect on corn yields at harvest

    Daniel Nath (Natural Resource Conservation Service – Rochester, MN) Mississippi River Basin Initiative- Phase Two; Soil Health: Does my ground have a pulse?

    Program Coordinator: Ed McNamara, 37299 171st Avenue Goodhue, MN 55027

    Program Sponsors: Legacy Seeds, Kartes Seeds, Jonas Seeds, Byron Seeds and

    Minnesota Department of Agriculture

    Cell: 651-380-8183, Email:

  • 16 Mar 2015 10:51 AM | Anonymous
    People in Rochester are gearing up for a series of events April 18-26 in the Rochester Area.
  • 10 Mar 2015 4:38 PM | Anonymous

    Our friends at Minnesota Trout Unlimited created a great web page about the new Dayton Buffer Rule. As you probably know, Minnesota has required a 50-foot perennial buffer between crop fields and waterways for over three decades, but a recent survey of Minnesota Buffers by the Environmental Working Group found that only 18 percent of rivers and streams had all the required buffers.

    The TU page gives you an easy way to contact your legislators about the bill and a link to the actual bill. You can also click here to see the Senate Version of the Bill, Senate Bill SF 1537. The link to House Bill on the site doesn't work, though.

    Overall, the bill doesn't seem to include many changes from current law, with the exception that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will step in if local Soil and Water Conservation Districts don't enforce the rule.

    Here's the page. Check it out and weigh in on this important water quality issue.

  • 02 Mar 2015 6:03 PM | Anonymous

    Minnesota Buffer Strip Summit to be Held in Mazeppa

    Buffer strips have been part of Minnesota drainage laws since 1959. Because these rules have not been uniformly enforced, this last January Governor Dayton asked the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to strengthen and take over enforcement of the law to provide consistent enforcement throughout our state.  Changes to the law are being proposed, with penalties from enforcement being looked at to fund the program.  

    As a result, the local soil health group, S.O.M. Generators, is hosting several sessions on Friday, March 13th at the Mazeppa Community Center to spur discussion on the governor’s proposal, as well as discussion on current and future soil conservation practices and how it is affecting the land.

    The afternoon session will begin at 1:00 p.m. with a presentation by local Mazeppa photographer, Brenda Wiech.  Wiech states that her presentation titled, Zumbro Crossings, was born out of a deep conviction to be a caretaker of the land that has and continues to shape my existence in the Zumbro River watershed.  These fine art landscape photographs increase awareness of a vanishing agricultural-supported society that is also faced with increased floods and soil conservation issues. The intensity of light and color generates a mood in the face of adversity and brings attention to landscapes that typically get missed.  It is a timeless juxtaposition addressing a fragile environment where time does not stand still.

    Beginning at 2:00 p.m., there will be presentations on Regenerative Agriculture Management and how these practices can renew the soil. Regeneration has the ability to cure all environmental problems coming from croplands by restoring Natural Tilth. Such soils have almost unlimited infiltration, and the recycling of both active carbon and other nutrients can significantly reduce a farmers production costs.

    At 3:00 p.m. Kevin Strauss, Education Coordinator with the Zumbro Watershed Partnership, will present "Rivers, Farms, and Floods: A Human History of the Zumbro River."  The Zumbro River provided mill power, drinking water, and waste disposal when American settlers arrived in the 1800s. Back then, the Zumbro was a slow, curving, and relatively clean river with few floods and almost no erosion. Learn how things changed and what we can do for a cleaner, safer Zumbro River.

    Individuals are invited to return to the Community Center at 6 p.m. to continue the dialogue.  At 7:00 p.m. an open forum on the new Minnesota Buffer Strip Initiative will begin. The forum will be chaired by hometown State Rep. Steve Drazkowski.  Panel members will consist of state regulatory personnel, as well as several local State Legislators.

    Refreshments will be served in the afternoon and individuals are invited to look at the displays and become part of the conversation.  Following each presentation there will be time for questions and comments.



  • 12 Jan 2015 11:18 AM | Anonymous

    Des Moines Water Works to Sue Counties

    The board of the state's largest water utility has voted unanimously to sue three northern Iowa counties, holding them responsible for the high nitrate levels in rivers the utility uses for source water. Des Moines Water Works CEO and General Manager Bill Stowe says there have been significant peaks in nitrate levels throughout the last three years.

    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, discusses why the state's largest water utility is suing counties in Iowa.
    Bill Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works, discusses why the state's largest water utility is suing counties in Iowa.
    Credit Photo by John Pemble

    “Unfortunately in a context where there’s a lot of discussion about volunteerism and conservation practices that will take flight voluntarily by farmers learning more about it,” Stowe says. “We’re still seeing the public water supply in central Iowa directly risked by high nitrate concentrations.”

    The five-member board says it will file a notice of intent to sue Calhoun, Buena Vista and Sac counties, which oversee 10 drainage districts that were designed to move water out of farm fields downstream. The suit will allege the drainage districts move contaminants like nitrates the Water Works must remove when levels exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits.

    “There is no evidence that the regulatory scheme ultimately sought by Des Moines Water Works will improve water quality,” says Tom Oswald, the president of the Iowa Soybean Association.

    A notice of intent Friday notifies the county supervisors and state officials that a lawsuit will be filed in 60 days.


  • 23 Dec 2014 1:09 PM | Anonymous

    Oregon Department of Agriculture to Monitor Water Quality and Require Farmers to Reduce Pollution

    Capital Press

    Mateusz Perkowski/Capital Press Julie DiLeone, rural lands program supervisor for the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District, explains the importance of streamside vegetation during a recent field tour of Johnson Creek near Portland, Ore. The Oregon Department of Agriculture is expanding a program aimed at water quality compliance among landowners, which may drive them to seek help from soil and water conservation districts.

    Increased scrutiny of water quality by Oregon's agriculture experts may convince landowners to voluntarily improve stream conditions on their properties.

    A project aimed at restoring riparian habitat along several creeks in Oregon’s Multnomah County has hit a roadblock.

    Despite numerous entreaties from the local soil and water conservation district, most landowners have refused free streamside tree planting that would reduce temperatures in the creek.

    “Some people are just not interested in having someone else working on their property,” said Julie DiLeone, rural lands program supervisor for the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District.

    Even though the trees are planted at no charge, people are reluctant to have crews come onto their land and to relinquish control over the management of streamsides, she said.

    Only about 25-30 percent of stream miles targeted by the district are enrolled in the restoration program, DiLeone said.

    “We don’t know if that’s going to be enough or not” to bring down temperatures, she said.

    Increased scrutiny of water quality by Oregon’s agriculture regulators may help the state’s soil and water conservation districts overcome such resistance among landowners.

    The Oregon Department of Agriculture plans to expand its oversight of streams and rivers that flow through agricultural lands next year, which may spur interest in voluntary riparian improvement projects, experts say.

    “If more people come in the door, at least in our district, that’s great because we have the capacity to help more people,” said Laura Masterson, an organic farmer and board member of the East Multnomah S&WCD.

    For decades, the agency’s strategy for compliance with the federal Clean Water Act on farmland was largely complaint-driven, said John Byers, manager of ODA’s agricultural water quality program.

    This method is only reliable to a point, however, since some water quality problems undefined like manure piles near waterways or streams denuded of vegetation undefined may never be reported, he said.

    “Neighbors don’t always want to turn in neighbors,” said Byers.

    About two years ago, ODA decided to “self-initiate” compliance with water quality rules, relying on publicly available information like aerial photographs and topographical maps, to identify potential problem areas and notify the landowners.

    Since the agency doesn’t have the resources to conduct in-depth monitoring of the whole state, the new approach was first tested in Wasco and Clackamas counties.

    “We can’t be out on everybody’s ground in every month of the year,” said Doug Krahmer, a blueberry farmer and member of the Oregon Board of Agriculture, which advises ODA.

    In mid-2015, ODA intends to roll out the program in six to 12 new “strategic implementation areas” once Byers prioritizes where water quality improvements are most needed.

    The decision is heartening for conservationist groups like the Oregon Environmental Council, which say the program will help ODA defend its water compliance efforts in the future.

    “It sounds like the outreach they did has been really effective,” said Allison Hensey, agriculture and watersheds program director at OEC. “I really hope they will do a lot more in the future now that they’ve worked out a few kinks and learned some things.”

    Water quality degradation from agricultural activity is often related to a lack of vegetation, as bare ground can cause sediment runoff into streams and a lack of trees and shrubs may destabilize streambanks and raise water temperatures, Byers said.

    The new compliance approach has worked in Clackamas and Wasco counties, where ODA sent letters to landowners letting them know water conditions on their properties were being evaluated, he said.

    The agency also told landowners of particular water quality concerns and advised them to fix the problem, he said. For example, ODA had significant or serious concerns about four parcels in Wasco County, and the notice convinced the owners to take action.

    “It’s about compliance, not enforcement,” Byers said. “We have that regulatory backstop but we have been successful in not having to use it.”

    ODA simply tells landowners they can’t pollute but the solution is up to them. For technical assistance, though, they can seek help from their local soil and water conservation district.

    Although the districts can help landowners achieve compliance, it’s important to note they don’t have a regulatory function, said Masterson, who also serves on the Oregon Board of Agriculture.

    The distinction is important because people shouldn’t be afraid to come to districts for help, she said. “That firewall is critical.”

    While there has been concern that landowner requests for assistance may overwhelm some smaller districts, it’s probably wise to cross that bridge when we come to it, said Krahmer, a board member of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District. “To date, there has been no evidence that is the case.”

Contact Us:

Mailing Address: Zumbro Watershed Partnership, Inc.
12 Elton Hills Drive NW
Rochester, MN 55901

ZWP Executive Director Contact Information 
Phone Number: 507-226-6787

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