CRWD receives grant to clean up Cedar, Mississippi River

Published 11:23 am Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Cedar River Watershed District received $335,000 of federal funding Monday, which will be used to begin clean-up efforts of the Mississippi and Cedar Rivers.

CRWD’s portion of the larger federal fund will go toward projects in a small watershed area, 66,058 acres, north of Austin. The projects are part of the Mississippi River Basin Initiative (MRBI), a five-year study, and will focus on farmland that lies adjacent to waterways that affect the Cedar River Watershed. The final goal is to improve all water quality of rivers that eventually flow into the Mississippi.

Several farmers are already participating in the project. Local efforts aim to increase the number of grass strips on crop fields, set aside wetland restoration areas and do nitrate testing on crops.

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Those steps are ways to monitor and reduce nitrate levels, which officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said are too high in the area. High nitrates can reduce water quality, harm aquatic life and affect drinking water, according to Bev Nordby, CRWD coordinator.

Nordby hopes support will keep coming from farmers in the area.

“Last year we had about seven or eight farmers,” she said. “This year we hope to have several more farmers in that area participate.”

The results will also indicate if farmers need to reduce the level of nitrates they put on their fields through fertilizers. The combined projects will also contribute to the ongoing efforts to combat flooding.

The total project costs in the CRWD’s area is $2.6 million over the five-year period, with $1.7 million coming from the USDA. CRWD and Mower SWCD have several other resources for funding, including the state of Minnesota and matched dollars through cost share programs.

The $335,000 is CRWD’s share of a total $43 million in funding for 41 watershed districts across 12 states in 2011. The Cedar River Watershed is one of 10 watersheds in Minnesota that received funding for projects in 2011.