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Hormel Foundation awards $500K grant to the CRWD

Mower County’s Cedar River Watershed is getting another big dose of generosity from The Hormel Foundation to improve water quality and reduce flooding.

The Hormel Foundation has approved a $500,000 grant request from the Cedar River Watershed District, which in turn will match that with $500,000 in mostly state funds.

Most of the match funds will come from the bonding bill passed in October by the state legislature under the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ flood-hazard mitigation program.

In 2015, The Hormel Foundation granted $3.2 million to CRWD to begin its five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) to build upland-storage projects mainly in the watershed’s headwater areas. CRWD matched that grant with $3.4 million in state and local funding.

With a $1 million overall budget heading into the 2021 construction season, CRWD staff can now work with landowners in the headwaters of Dobbins Creek on potential projects for building earthen berms that temporarily store large amounts of stormwater and snowmelt. This would continue the past five years of progress made by the CRWD under its CIP initiative in collaboration with The Hormel Foundation and State of Minnesota.

“Everyone who lives in the Cedar River Watershed can be very thankful for the significant and ongoing support of The Hormel Foundation,” said CRWD administrator Justin Hanson. “Together, we are making a difference with these upland-storage projects, and others from across the state are learning from this work.”

Hanson also expressed gratitude for the legislative efforts by outgoing State Sen. Dan Sparks and State Rep. Jeanne Poppe, both of Austin, to support CRWD’s projects this year and during their many years serving in the Legislature.

“Getting state approval to form the Cedar River Watershed District, designating the Cedar River as a state water trail and helping to secure millions of dollars in state funding for our upland-storage projects – Sen. Sparks and Rep. Poppe did outstanding work for the local natural resources during their legislative careers,” Hanson said.

CRWD’s new grant is part of $10.6 million approved in November by The Hormel Foundation to nonprofit organizations in the Austin community. To date, The Hormel Foundation has given more than $300 million to the community.

“This is only possible due to the visionary plan established in 1941 by George and Jay Hormel, and the generations of hard-working employees of Hormel Foods,” said Jeffrey M. Ettinger, chair of The Hormel Foundation.

CRWD’s initial five-year goal for its CIP initiative was achieved in 2020 thanks to the original $3.2 million grant from The Hormel Foundation and another $3.4 million in state and local funding that built 14 projects, including 11 upland-storage structures in the Dobbins watershed. Most projects were built on streams flowing into Dobbins’ north and south branches.

This year, CRWD has surpassed its original CIP goal of eight percent by achieving at least a 10 percent peak flow reduction at the Cedar-Dobbins confluence in Austin after constructing the district’s biggest project to date – the Dexter 30-Dam 2. Spanning nearly 2,000 feet long with a 21-foot peak berm height, the $1.2 million structure is fully functional for temporary stormwater storage in the headwaters of Dobbins’ south branch.

Nearly 3,000 acres of mostly cropland are now controlled by CIP projects in the Dobbins watershed that is prone to flash flooding. With all CIP projects in place, a 10-year rain storm (roughly four inches of rain) – which leads to some rural roads being overtopped by flooding – would be about one foot lower at its peak downstream from Dobbins Creek’s confluence of its north and south branches in Austin’s Jay C. Hormel Nature Center.

Part of the next CIP work in 2021 will be funded by $100,000 in state funding under the first budget for the Cedar-Wapsipinicon Comprehensive Water-Management Plan. This is part of the “One Watershed, One Plan” funding from the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources.