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Julie Kingsley named SWCD and Local Water Plan director

Julie Kingsley, a longtime lake activist, has been hired to direct Hubbard County's Soil and Water Conservation Distrct. She is a past president of the 9th Crow Wing Lake Association and a former Nevis educator. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

A summer spent on Big Mantrap as a watercraft inspector triggered a return to an original career for Julie Kingsley.

"I miss this!" she determined as she was examining boats for Aquatic Invasive Species this past summer.

Kingsley, who's spent the last 12 years as an educational assistant at Nevis School, assumed the role of district manager of the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District and Local Water Plan coordinator in October.

She replaces Mark Sommer, who was hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a hydrologist in Michigan.

The position is a natural fit for Kingsley. During and after college at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, she was employed by the Department of Natural Resources in both Wisconsin and subsequently Indiana in Fisheries. Her duties ranged from creel clerk to fish hatchery technician.

She was director of the Bonanza Environmental Education Center in Big Stone Lake State Park, an environmental education center for seven school districts.  As executive director of the Minnesota River Joint Powers board - a consortium of five counties -she provided unified water education and projects for the consortium.

The Kingsleys, including husband Doug and their two daughters, moved to the Park Rapids area 14 years ago. Kingsley was the education and outreach coordinator for the Headwaters Science Center in Bemidji and later the Rivers Council of Minnesota.

As past president of the 8th & 9th Crow Wing Lake Association and Hubbard County COLA secretary for seven years, she has participated in many of the SWCD programs, gaining familiarity with the roles of the organization. Chief among them is administration of grants.

Among the programs is a wild rice protection grant, gaining easements to protect shoreline on shallow wild rice lakes, including 1st and 4th Crow Wing lakes, Upper Mud, Spring and Crow Wing Lake.

She will administer the Reinvest in Minnesota program as well as inspect 13 cost-share projects, ranging from shoreland protection to windbreaks to unused well sealing.

Kingsley's role includes assisting with the Wetland Conservation Act process if there's wetland infringement - upholding the policy of no net loss of wetlands in Hubbard County.

She will oversee the evapotranspiration hotline for farmers and golf courses, monitoring how much water the crop or grass used the day before and the amount of rain in the area to make decisions on irrigation.

The determination, she explained, is based on a scientific formula, with temperature, stage of the growth cycle, humidity and sunshine all factors. This prevents over-use of groundwater and stops leaching (unfiltered groundwater entering aquifers).

The office is also responsible for irrigation monitoring, physically measuring moisture in the soil to determine best management practices relating to moisture. Nitrate testing in well water is also under the SWCD "umbrella."

Kingsley will coordinate the annual Freshwater Festival, area sixth graders arriving to become attuned to environmental stewardship.

SWCD orchestrates Restore the Shore tree planting initiative and annual tree sales.

The SWCD is partnering with the DNR on a multi-county tullibee stewardship grant, working with landowners to establish BMPs for the fish.

And Kingsley is in the process of writing a grant to expand Hubbard County's AIS watercraft inspection program, 15 trained technicians examining boats on area lakes last summer.

Meanwhile, back on the home front with the DNR Area Fisheries supervisor - husband Doug - dinner conversations have shifted back to original topics - what's going on beneath the surface of the soil and water.