2009 Annual Report for Cedar River Watershed District

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Cedar River Watershed District


2009 Annual Report

It is the Cedar River Watershed District’s purpose to reduce flooding and protect and improve water quality in the streams.

1408 21st Ave. NW Austin, MN 55912 507-434-2603

www.cedarriverwd.org Courtesy of

CRWD Board of Managers 7 members appointed for staggered three-year terms. Mower County Representatives Harlen Peck, President Al Layman, Vice President Jim Gebhardt, Secretary Dan Regner, Manager Steele County Representative Mike Jones, Treasurer Freeborn County Representative Steve Kraushaar, Manager Dodge County Representative Al Kording, Manager

Mower SWCD Staff Assisting the Watershed District Bev Nordby, Administrator Justin Hanson, Project Coordinator Matt Taylor, Monitoring Jeanne Crump, Administrative

10 Year Watershed Management Plan Complete The Cedar River Watershed District just completed a 2 year process to develop the 10 year Watershed Management Plan. This plan is one of the Watershed District’s (WD’s) most important tools for identifying problems in the watershed. The plan details the goals and policies of the Watershed District and establishes the basis for the WD’s regulations and funding authority. The Cedar River Board of Manager’s priority was to involve many stakeholders throughout the process. They appointed a planning advisory committee that met regularly throughout the two years. They also attended township, municipality and county meetings to visit and get their input as elected officials. Goals in the plan include: - Reduce flooding and peak flow by 20%. - Prevent structural damage in the watershed during a 100-year 24 hour rainfall. - Reduce sediment and nutrient loading throughout the watershed via Best Management Practices. - Protection and improvement of Township, County, City and State infrastructure resulting from reduced levels of flooding. The plan goes into great detail of the programs, policies and action items that the Watershed District needs to address in order to achieve the goals that the plan has laid out. The entire plan can be viewed on our website at www.cedarriverwd.org.

Water Retention Sites The Cedar River board has spent a lot of time talking about the best way to target flood control in the watershed. Many presentations have been made and public comments heard over the past couple years. Current set-aside farm program practices, such as wetland restorations, seem to be the most public supported approach to addressing flood damage reduction. A hydrologic study was formulated to target culverts and roads, as a way to systematically achieve flood control. This study, while likely affective, has not been well received by the public. The board saw a need to incorporate the best of both practices. A feasibility study was completed to identify and quantify two areas that would provide flood control benefits. These areas were chosen based on cost-benefits and potential landowner participation. The studies did show that water retention is possible. District staff are investigating grant opportunities to build a few pilot projects.

CRWD Helps Nicholville with Start Up Costs for Community Sewer System The Nicolville Sewer Project will be a cluster septic system serving 14 homes in Red Rock Township. It will be comprised of a gravity flow collection system, and a mound treatment site. In order to get all of the design, bidding, and approvals completed to be eligible for using grant and loan funds, Red Rock Township, on behalf of the Nicolville Subordinate Service District, needed to hire an engineer to complete all of the up-front documents. The engineering firm, Jones, Haugh, & Smith, Inc., was willing to float one-half of their fees until the grant and loan dollars were released. However, the Township was responsible for covering the other half. They did not have the cash reserves for this extensive of a project and sought the assistance of the Cedar River Watershed District to assist them with this project. CRWD provided them with a $30,000 zero interest loan to help assure that this project is completed.

CRWD Works on Developing Their First Rules Since November, the CRWD has been working on the Rules for the Watershed District. Watersheds are mandated by the legislature to adopt rules. The legislature has declared that all watershed districts in Minnesota “must adopt rules to accomplish the purposes of the watershed district�. The rules process has two committees. The advisory Committee, which is made up of citizens (rural & urban), CRWD board managers and County Commissioners; and the technical committee, made up of engineering staff that will help the Watershed District write the standards of the rules. The areas for consideration for the rules include; a permit program for rural & urban stormwater, floodplain development and wetland restorations. There will be a public informational meeting the beginning of April to explain the draft rules.

$2 Million for Water Quality and Flood Reduction Partnerships are a key component to doing business in the conservation world. One of the great partnership initiatives in recent years occurred when the legislature approved a $2 million dollar appropriation for wetland and flood reduction projects in the Cedar River and Turtle Creek watersheds. The funding was directed to the Reinvest In Minnesota (state) and Wetlands Reserve Program (federal). These two programs were combined to stretch federal and state dollars for wetland restoration projects. The partnership has been around for years and restored thousands of drained wetlands. In recent years, these projects are being recognized for their flood control benefits as well. During the last RIM/WRP sign-up, two million dollars were appropriated for flood control projects in the Cedar River and Turtle Creek Watersheds. This was a very successful sign up. The demand was so high that good projects needed to be turned away. The conversion of farm land to restoration will start this spring. Over the next couple of years, wetlands will be restored on over 1,000 acres of land. Once complete, there will be 20 new areas in the watershed providing water quality and flood control benefits.

Dobbins Creek The CRWD participated in a State sponsored project to study the potential for “Restoring� a small watershed. The project is called the Ag Watershed Restoration Project (AWR). The State funded 6 similar projects around the state. Dobbins Creek Watershed is a 25,000 acre sub of the Cedar River Watershed. This land area is notorious for being the flashiest land contributing to the Cedar River. This creates a substantial challenge for land use planning. Over the years, the Dobbins area has accumulated good hydrologic and water quality data. This data put the District in a good position to create a simulation model of the watershed. Through the grant opportunities, the CRWD was able to develop this model. Once complete, the model simulated the relationship between rain fall and soil in the Dobbins area. In the fall of 2008, District staff collaborated with State and a private consultant. The consultant used all of the previous water monitoring and studies performed in the Dobbins area. The district staff also provided additional land use information to help them develop the model. This was an arduous process and took a few months to complete. Once the model was developed, the scenarios were run. These model runs include thousands of scenarios. The end result was a summary of water quality issues and potential solutions for fixing the problems. The consultant laid out 5 scenarios to address the water quality concerns and hydrologic challenges. They also provided a summary of practices that would need to be used as land treatment. The practices were chosen based on feasibility and willingness by area landowners to participate. The summary outlined the number of practices that would be required to achieve the state water quality standards. The report also provided a feasibility component, to consider as future planning. The board and staff are excited to begin developing a plan to implement the Ag Watershed Restoration project in Dobbins Creek. It is anticipated that State funds will be used to partner in the necessary cost-share funding to implement the plan.

Cost-Share Program The board of managers have spent a significant amount of time and resources putting a watershed plan together. This is necessary work, which gives the board a road map for when they want to start doing projects. The board is excited about starting a cost-share and project plan for the 2010 year. They have had planning meetings and are planning on rolling out a cost-share program in the early spring. The board has been diligent in their discussions, working towards developing a program that helps them meet the goals of their 10 year plan. The primary goal of the cost-share program is to reduce flood damage and improve water quality. Doing that in the most efficient and cost-effective way will stretch funds and get more projects completed. The board will partner with grant funding and existing programs where possible. They also hope to provide projects that have a need and are not currently covered by local programs. There will be projects available for people in the agricultural and urban communities. The program hopes to be straight forward and short on red tape. Projects should start hitting the ground this spring.

Tillage Transect Survey A tillage transects survey was completed throughout the watershed with an intense focus on the Dobbins Creek and Little Cedar areas. Data was collected about tillage types, crops, residue, planting direction, as well as any distinct features in the field. These surveys are similar to the surveys organized every 2-3 years by Minnesota State Universities.

The Minnesota Department of Ag provided software, training and use of their Trimble GPS. The Trimble GPS and program made the survey fast and easy. We have seen a reduction in the intensive tillage practices in the past decade. Incentives have caused an increase in no-till practices over that time. We are still awaiting the results from the 2009 survey. Data will again be collected in 2010 by SWCD’s in the Cedar River Watershed.

LiDAR The CRWD is using advanced technology to develop precise land use planning in the Cedar River Watershed. This tool is referred to as Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR). The LiDAR process is very comprehensive and detailed data collection, which involved shooting millions and millions of laser lights at the grounds surface. Each laser shoots the ground elevation and records it from a specially set up air plane. When the project is complete, the data is put together into one project, which develops 3D imagery and contour information for the entire watershed and County. The data is so precise that a contour map can be developed to show 2’ contours. This is a significant change from previous contour information, which could only measure in 10’ contour intervals. Using the 2’ contours gives land use planners a very good perspective on current land uses. The data paints a picture of the landscape and shows the exact lay of the land. This is invaluable information, which has made all conservation planning a much more efficient and accurate way of getting projects on the ground. The watershed district has only had the technology for a few months and it has already been used for identifying flood storage on potential restoration ground. It was also used in the Dobbins Creek Watershed modeling project. The LiDAR initiative was a collaborative effort, sponsored locally by the Cedar River Watershed District, Mower County and Soil & Water Conservation Districts. The project was made possible by the special legislative funding aimed at assisting the flood damage repairs needed in Southeast Minnesota. All of the SE Counties participated in the project, which made the product affordable for partnering agencies.

Water Quality Data Water quality data was collected through the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), Clean Water Legacy Stream Water Assessment Grant (CWL SWAG), the Cedar River Watershed District (CRWD) has a monitoring program, and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) intensive watershed monitoring program. Samples are taken from late March to early November. The TMDL sampled 14 times on 6 sites, 2009 was the first full year of monitoring. The CWL SWAG monitoring program sampled 17 times on 11 sites, 2009 was the second and final year of monitoring. MPCA’s intensive watershed monitoring program sampled 10 times at 11 sites. CRWD sampled 8 times on the Cedar River at the Oakland Avenue Bridge in Austin. The TMDL and CWL sites had continuous stage samplers and staff gages installed. Samples for conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature, and turbidity were taken with a handheld YSI at all sites. T-tubes were also used at all sites to monitor water quality. TMDL lab samples were taken to the Minnesota Department of Health for TSS, VSS, nitrate-nitrite, lab pH, lab turbidity, TP and OP. CWL samples were sent to Minnesota Valley Testing Labs (MVTL) and sampled for TSS, E.coli, sulfate, chloride, nitrate-nitrite, ammonia, TP, OP and TKN. Volunteers took t-tube samples, rainfall and stage data at 4 sites in the watershed as a part of the CWL grant. Some of the sites were co-located with the CWL or TMDL sites. The volunteers did a great job of getting data multiple times during events. Water quality results are processed and reviewed. The data is sent to MPCA and inserted into the STORET program. All water quality data is available on the web at www.pca.state.mn.us/data/edaWater/index.cfm. MPCA used the data to assess the streams for impairment or to remove from the impairment list. Stream impairment listings by MPCA occur every 2 years. A full and condensed version of monitoring report is available at the Cedar River Watershed District website (www.cedarriverwd.org). The following graphs show the water quality results. The red line on the graphs is the MPCA standard and the yellow line is the normal sample average. The nitrate-nitrite samples graphed are the higher end of the sample set. Nitrate-nitrite samples tend to peak when streams return to normal flow after an increase flow event. Phosphorous levels were the highest below the two wastewater treatment plants and during low flows. The graph looks like an opposite of the nitrate-nitrate graph. The turbidity graph again shows the higher samples. The total sample set exceeded the MPCA standard about 10 percent of the time. These graphs follow the peak flows of the streams.

Stream Flow On the smaller streams and during the lower flows, the stream flow data was collected by the CRWD. Continuous stage is also collected at all sites. The DNR collects continuous stage and flow data at major sites and collects high flow data at larger sites. The DNR and BARR Engineering will develop rating curves once sampling is complete in 2010. Flow is important in determining sediment and nutrient loading. Collecting flow measurements has been difficult with the low flow conditions.

Bio Sampling As a part of MPCA’s intensive watershed monitoring process, bio sampling occurred on 57 sites in the Cedar River and Turtle Creek watersheds. We should have IBIs (Index of Biotic Integrity) when all the data is tallied. Fish should be done by April and benthic data calculated by the fall of 2010. Ozark Minnows and Red Bellied Dace were some species of note. During the survey, some larger specimens of Northern Pike and Walleye were sampled. According to the fisheries biologist, Rose Creek was considered one of the better sites that they have sampled in the last two years. The intensive watershed sampling will be repeated every 10 years.

Red Bellied Dace

Stream Geomorphology The DNR has been and will be collecting cross-sectional data in the Cedar River watershed and comparing it to historical data. This will provide a better understanding of channel types, future channel types and sedimentation. It will also provide a better understanding as to where future practices may provide the best protection. They have determined that most of the streams in the watershed are labeled as “type F” or meandering, entrenched, and highly incised systems in low gradient landforms. The surveys will continue into the 2010 monitoring season. In these systems, top-of-bank elevation is much higher than bankfull elevation detaching the stream from the flood plain.

Ozark minnow

Cedar River Selected One of 4 Watersheds in State to Become a Focus Area The Cedar River Watershed has been selected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to become a focus area for the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI). By becoming a focus area, it allows the Cedar River WD to apply for federal funding for a small sub-watershed project. Through this initiative, the program will help producers in selected watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin voluntarily implement conservation practices that avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff; improve wildlife habitat; and maintain agricultural productivity. This 3 year program offers many opportunities that are a part of the Watershed District’s 10 year watershed management plan. The CRWD will be actively participating in the initiative and hopefully funding will follow.

Cedar River Watershed District 1408 21st Ave. NW Austin, MN 55912 507-434-2603 www.cedarriverwd.org