Debbie Zimmerman Dec 17, 2014

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The Nicollet Soil and Water Conservation District will receive $1.7 million through the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment’s Clean Water Fund.

The grant is part of the Targeted Watershed Demonstration Program, a new approach to addressing water pollution that focuses funding on watersheds where actions needed for water quality improvement are known and can be achieved in a four-year window of time.

The project centers on the Seven Mile Creek watershed, which is the priority watershed for Nicollet County located just south of St. Peter. The watershed includes prime agricultural land in the headwaters and a county park near the creek’s confluence with the Minnesota River. The creek is a designated trout stream and is on the state list of impaired waters because of sediment levels, nutrients and other pollutants that affect aquatic life, recreation, and drinking water.

The Nicollet SWCD is one of more than 20 entities that make up the Seven Mile Creek Watershed Partnership, a broad coalition representing conservation, agriculture, community and recreation interests, coordinated by Great River Greening, and working together to address water quality concerns in the watershed. In addition to Great River Greening, other key partners in this project are the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center and the University of Minnesota. Critical to the success of this Partnership is active local community participation which provides leadership and direction for this water quality initiative. The project will achieve reductions in current pollutant levels of 40-50 percent of their goal for sediment, 15-25 percent for nitrogen and 20-30 percent percent for E. coli.

John Jaschke, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources executive director, said, “Nicollet SWCD and its partners have worked hard to improve water quality in the Seven Mile Creek watershed. This holistic approach will enable them to target conservation practices where they can make the biggest difference for the benefit of the entire watershed.”

“Seven Mile Creek is exactly the right place to demonstrate that significant water quality improvements can be achieved in agricultural watersheds without sacrificing the economic vitality of the surrounding farms. We are fostering a locally led, collaborative process and this grant will allow us to demonstrate that those characteristics are essential for achieving water quality improvements in any agricultural watershed,” said Great River Greening’s Seven Mile Creek Watershed Coordinator Karen Galles.

The Board of Water and Soil Resources received $30 million in application requests from 19 local governments for $5.4 million in available funding. The other recipients from this cycle are Chisago SWCD for the Chisago Chain of Lakes watershed, Cook County SWCD for the Poplar River watershed, and Scott Water Management Organization for the Sand Creek watershed.