Cedar River

This Cedar River watershed covers prime agricultural land with many streams and drainage ditches flowing into the river. The watershed is fairly flat with shallow lakes and rivers. Extensive drainage, to facilitate farming, has altered the hydrology of the watershed.

Austin is located on the Cedar River at the confluence of several tributaries. This watershed has a history of flooding that results in crop and property damage.

      What's being done

        Monitoring and assessment

        Several lakes and sections of streams in the watershed fail to meet state water quality standards. Problems include sediment making the water cloudy, excess nutrients, bacteria, and mercury or PCBs in fish tissue. To address these problems, the Mower County SWCD is coordinating a study to identify sources of pollutants, recommend reductions in pollutant amounts, and outline ways to achieve those reductions.

        Strategy development for restoration and protection

        The Cedar River Watershed District received a grant for conservation practices to reduce nitrates in the streams and rivers. The Turtle Creek Watershed District has reclaimed shallow lakes for better fish and wildlife habitat through deliberate fish kills and restocking of desirable species. The watershed districts are also working with their counties to replace failing on-site sewer systems.

        There are two upper Cedar River subwatersheds in Minnesota that have been included in the USDA's Mississippi River Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI). These subwatersheds are the Blooming Prairie Tributary (31,000 acres) and the Austin-Cedar River subwatershed (35,000 acres), which are both upstream of Austin. Within these targeted subwatersheds, there will be a special emphasis on the implementation of agricultural conservation practices, and concurrent stream monitoring, to track effectiveness. Special USDA funding will be available for landowners within these subwatersheds, for practices that include nutrient management and wetland restoration.

        The Mower County SWCD has coordinated the development of a TMDL project for suspended solids since 2008, along with the Turtle Creek and Cedar River Watershed Districts. A report for the Cedar River Watershed is being developed, covering 14 bacterial impairments, 11 TSS impairments, and one lake eutrophication listing. The report will help determine the necessary reductions in sediment, nutrient and bacteria to meet water quality standards.