CRWD targets flood funds for local projects

Published 11:07 am Friday, October 22, 2010

Solutions to area flooding and water quality issues, addressed at the Cedar River Watershed District meeting on Wednesday, will require more time, money and research for projects throughout next summer and beyond.

A special Minnesota legislative session recently allocated $10 million under the Reinvest in Minnesota program (RIM) to be divided among 21 counties in Minnesota that were recently declared disaster areas, of which Mower was included. Three million more will be set aside specifically for improving river banks and reducing erosion.

It’s uncertain how much Mower County will receive from RIM, but CRWD Administrator Bev Nordby hopes that we get a large share of the dollars.

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“It will be a busy (next) year for construction, so hopefully we get some of those cost-share dollars,” Nordby said.

Aerial photos taken by Justin Hanson of Mower Soil and Water Conservation District may help to put some of that money into projects near Austin. The photos show some of the precursors for future flooding, which will help to pinpoint flood-control projects.

However, because of limited flight-time availability and the short timeframe for study after the flood, Hanson was not able to thoroughly assess the entire watershed.

“We can actually get some really good information in just half-an-hour,” Hanson said. “You can make a lot more observations from up in the air.”

Hanson added that next time, he would like to go on a flight for at least an hour, or long enough to cover the entire watershed. The downside is that obtaining more accurate and encompassing information by that method would require more flooding to study.

One flood project already underway is the H & H model (hydrologic and hydrology). This modeling should help the CRWD figure out what is most important. Nordby said, “We are studying the flow of the watershed, so we can put priority on where to spend our money. We want the most bang for our buck.”

As of now, CRWD is modeling three different scenarios near 250th Street of Red Rock Township to see what is the best way to prevent flooding because that is one significant source of the problems.

CRWD will discuss more of the H & H modeling in November.

Projects concerning water quality include continuing study on the total maximum daily load (TMDL) of sediments entering the rivers, more rain gardens, and a joint effort with farmers to study nitrates in corn, soil and how that affects the Mississippi River Basin.

Also, in response to the recent floods, the CRWD and SWCD did some river clean up of their own by loading canoes with trash removed from the water. Hanson said that a lot of it was from the flooding, but there were a few things that had noticably been there for a while. He and Tim Ruzek of the CRWD had been thinking of a large-scale clean-up project, but decided to try a small clean-up first to see what type of effort would be needed.

Hanson added that more planning and people would need to be involved in future projects like this because the canoes fill up very quickly before getting too far.

According to Nordby, Ruzek is working with the DNR on a state water-trail project to create more access to the waters for public use. “He’s been busy, and it’s been really good,” she added.

Ruzek and Hanson both want the Cedar River to be cleaner and more usable to people.

“There’s so many more uses of the river than we think,” Hanson said. “If people knew about it, they’d be using it a lot more.”