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Grant money available to improve Cedar River water quality

Conservation groups are calling on area farmers to help improve water quality in the Cedar River, a waterway that is considered one of the nation’s most endangered.

A $1.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help landowners and producers in the Cedar River basin implement practices for reducing runoff from agricultural land. The Mower County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Cedar River Watershed District are partnering to manage the project.

The grant program, “ Takes a look at pollutants and trying to do conservation practices to control and trap the nitrates and other fluids coming off,.”said Bev Nordby, SWCD district manager.

The five-year program begins in July. Participation is voluntary, and the SWCD and CRWD are looking for area landowners to participate.

Projects will be paid for jointly by landowners and the conservation districts. Land management practices for which cost-sharing is available include filter strips on private ditches, wetland restorations, water control structures, bioreactors, grade stabilizations and waterways.

The project announcement comes shortly after the Cedar River was named the fifth most endangered in the United States, largely due to poor flood management and poor watershed planning.

However, improving water quality locally isn’t the only goal. USDA officials are looking to improve quality in waterways that connect to the Mississippi River to improve nitrogen levels in the Gulf of Mexico, Nordby said.

The conservation districyts will monitor the project to determine whether improvements have been made. The project area is north of Austin up to the headwaters of the Cedar River and includes Mower, Steele, Freeborn and Dodge Counties.

Those interested in participating in the program can call the SWCD at 507-434-2603