Funding Provided By: Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund
Project Duration: July 2011-July 2013
Summary: This project will identify and prioritize areas in the Zumbro River Watershed that are critical for restoring and protecting water quality. Currently, conservation practices in the Zumbro Watershed are implemented opportunistically because a coordinated, watershed-wide approach for identifying critical sources of nonpoint source pollution, prioritizing sites and planning implementation projects is absent. Studies suggest that small areas of the landscape contribute disproportionately to nonpoint source pollution, so implementation of conservation projects should focus on those critical areas to maximize water quality benefits and ensure the most efficient use of resources. To arrive at our goal, we will 1) analyze Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data and other Geographic Information System (GIS) data to identify and rank critical areas of soil erosion and surface runoff for the 910,337-acre watershed and 2) develop and use an in-field assessment technique to further evaluate the top 50 source locations in the Zumbro Watershed. Outcomes of this project include determination of the top 50 critical sites, and identification of appropriate conservation practices and potential funding sources for those projects. In addition, Zumbro Watershed Partnership partners will be trained in the protocols developed so they can apply this process to the remainder of critical areas identified through the project and monitor changing conditions to update the list of priority projects as necessary. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is a collaborating agency on this project and will help disseminate results to other Minnesota watersheds that may want to conduct similar projects.
Finding Priority Erosion Sites in the Zumbro Watershed
Everyone knows that excessive sediment (dirt) in the Zumbro River is leading to problems like shallow lakes, reduced fish populations, and mucky water. But since this sediment could be washing into the river from almost any of the 900,000 acres that make up the watershed, this has been a hard problem to get a handle on, until now.
The Identifying Priority Erosion Sites (IPES) project, funded by a grant from the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) and managed by the Zumbro Watershed Partnership will provide the tools that local Soil and Water Conservation Districts will need to identify and prioritize erosion sites in their counties. Barr Engineering and University of Minnesota’s Dr. David Mulla are implementing the technical parts of the project using high-resolution GIS mapping data to identify which parts of the watershed (all the land that drains to the Zumbro River) that could have the biggest erosion problems.
“Past studies in other watersheds have shown that up to 80% of the sediment in the region could be eroding from as little as 10-20% of the landscape,” said ZWP Executive Director Lawrence Svien. “By targeting our limited staff and funding resources on these erosion ‘hot spots’ we’ll see the best return on our conservation investments.”
On Thursday, Dylan Timm from the University of Minnesota and Greg Wilson from Barr Engineering presented the project at the ZWP Partners Advisory Committee Meeting, a meeting of county, state, and city conservation and water professionals at the Cascade Meadow Wetlands and Environmental Science Center in Rochester.
According to Wilson, the project is using high-resolution mapping data to identify places in the watershed where we would expect to see high levels of erosion, based on land slope and water flow. So far, this process identified hundreds of locations that could be erosion problems in the watershed.
In February, Barr Engineering will hold a training for city, county, and state water professionals in the region to teach them how to use the tool that they have developed to identify and prioritize possible erosion sites in their county or city. Then these Soil and Water Conservation Districts will have a list of site they can focus on to reduce erosion and sediment in the Zumbro River.
When asked what prevention measures people could use to reduce erosion, Wilson was clear.
“It’s all about vegetative (green plant) stability,” said Wilson. “If you have an area without any plant cover, or an area without a buffer strip next to the river, you’re at a much higher risk of erosion.”
Wilson pointed out that degraded forestland (without any green plant undergrowth), bare soil crop fields, eroded river banks, and gullies are all places where erosion can take hold. And that erosion will lead to sedimentation and murky brown water in the Zumbro River.
For more information about this and other ways that the Zumbro Watershed Partnership is work for “Cleaner Water and Fewer Floods” in southeast Minnesota, visit www.zumbrowatershed.org.
Download Presentation Slides from Dylan Timm, University of Minnesota
Funding: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, with funding from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment.
Summary: The “Slow the Flow” Campaign is an educational initiative to eng
age residents, local governments, land owners, and businesses to take action to slow down and reduce the
amount of water running into the Zumbro River. Increased water flow leads to riverbank and gully erosion, river turbidity and sedimentation, increased runoff pollution, and an increased danger of flooding. This initiative uses both short- and long-term strategies to encourage city residents to use more rain barrels and rain gardens, encourage rural landowners to install more farm ponds and terrace systems, and to encourage local units of government to create more stormwater holding ponds and other systems to reduce the speed and volume of runoff entering the river.
Funding has been secured from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to install 90 permanent signs in the watershed that make drivers and recreational visitors aware that they are crossing the Zumbro River and that they are within the Zumbro Watershed. Funding will also cover a professional survey to assess baseline knowledge and develop a plan to increase resident awareness about the main reasons for increased river flow volumes, erosion, sedimentation and flooding in the Zumbro River Watershed. Finally, two landowner-led councils will be established in priority subwatersheds to discuss and decide on best practices to implement in the subwatershed.
As part of this project, Zumbro Watershed Partnership is giving cities and counties in the watershed the opportunity to receive and install bridge signs that identify rivers and streams in the watershed at no cost. We are currently working with Olmsted, Dodge, and Goodhue counties and the city of Rochester to identify appropriate bridge sign locations.