The Chippewa 10% Project, called “C10%,” strives to increase continuous living cover in the Chippewa River watershed by 10%, from 24 to 34%. By the numbers, that means increasing living cover from 320,000 acres to 453,000 in this west-central Minnesota watershed of 1.33 million acres. This project consists of several partners working to improve water quality while engaging the community to find local approaches that also support farm profitability.
Continuous living cover can consist of perennial plants or a careful overlapping of annual and cover crops. This strategy is a proven way to reduce runoff while improving soil health.
For the Chippewa watershed, living cover will also mean decreasing pollutants in water resources. The Chippewa River Watershed Project operated five water quality and flow monitoring stations from 1998-2012. These stations monitored streams in five different sub-watersheds. Each area differed in land use. The water monitoring found correlations between land use and water quality. Based on the monitoring data and research, the partners determined that increasing living cover by 10% would decrease nitrogen and total suspended solids enough to meet local water quality goals.
The C10% is based on the idea that rural landscape changes begin with farmers and landowners, and include the entire community. Its partners work together to find locally driven solutions. The partners engage with farmers and their communities through various initiatives.
One initiative is the Cover Crop/Soil Health Network. Farmers and ranchers in the Chippewa River watershed are monitoring their soil’s response to cover crops and experimenting with different species, planting methods and timing. Network members meet each winter to talk about what they tried, what worked and didn’t, and generate new ideas. They also meet annually with soil scientists to examine soil test results and what they reveal about each farm.
The MPCA has played an important role in developing C10%. Starting in the late 1990s and continuing today, MPCA and federal grants were critical to establishing the Chippewa River Watershed Project, one of the founding partners. These grants, along with technical and logistical support from MPCA staff, developed the water monitoring that formed the basis for C10%. This in turn has led to increased interest and funding from other partners.
For more information, see the Land Stewardship webpage on the project.