Farmer panel to share water quality projects and practices at Chippewa River watershed annual meeting

Contact: Forrest Peterson, 320-441-6972

St. Paul, Minn. — Residents and landowners in the Chippewa River watershed in western Minnesota now have a plan to reduce water pollution from bacteria and sediment. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) recently approved the plan developed by the Chippewa River Watershed Project (CRWP).

At the CRWP annual meeting April 7 in Starbuck, a panel of area farmers who have been making changes called for in the plan will share their experiences on how it’s both profitable and helps achieve water quality goals. Dr. Shawn Schottler, of the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, will give a presentation entitled "Water Quality and Habitat Trends: Does the future reflect the past?"

Registration for the annual meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Starbuck Community Center. A meal will be served at 6 p.m. followed by a program at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited. The meal is free with pre-registration. Reservations are requested by Tuesday, April 5. Call 320-269-2139 x120 or email jennifer.hoffman@chippewariver.org

The Chippewa River drains a 2,080 square-mile watershed into the Minnesota River near Montevideo. The watershed includes portions of Otter Tail, Grant, Douglas, Stevens, Pope, Swift, Kandiyohi, Chippewa counties, and a very small portion of Stearns.

Earlier reports identified portions of the water ways that exceeded the total maximum daily load (TMDL) for bacteria and turbidity, which is caused primarily by sediment and algae. The TMDL report is part of a nationwide effort under the federal Clean Water Act requiring states to adopt water quality standards to protect lakes, streams, and wetlands from pollution. 

The standards define how much of a pollutant (bacteria, nutrients, algae, sediment, mercury, etc.) can be in the water and still meet designated uses (total maximum daily load), such as drinking water, fishing, and swimming. A water body is “impaired” if it fails to meet one or more water quality standards.

The plan to reduce water pollution is available on the Chippewa River Watershed Project website and on the MPCA Chippewa River bacteria and turbidity webpages. 

There are many strategies and land use practices to reduce water pollution from bacteria and turbidity. They are being implemented in a focused approach working with communities and individual landowners, primarily agricultural producers. Land use practices include:

  • Livestock: Manure management, pasture management, manure management workshops.
  • Water management structures: Terraces, controlled drainage, water and sediment control basins.
  • Drainage and stream bank management: Protected tile intakes, two-stage ditches, streambank stabilization, ditch benefit redetermination.
  • Vegetation: Ditch buffers, grass waterways, wetland restoration, cover crops, conservation tillage.
  • Urban: Street sweeping, stormwater ponds, rain gardens, municipal stormwater, pervious pavers.
  • Wastewater treatment: Subsurface sewage treatment systems, municipal wastewater, unsewered communities.

A more comprehensive Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy spanning 10 years will be completed soon. It incorporates monitoring and assessment, Total Maximum Daily Load studies, and the action plan to install water quality projects. Completed reports and other information about the Chippewa River Watershed are posted on the MPCA Chippewa River Watershed webpage.