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Funds available for local water quality projects

"Community partners" are invited to submit project proposals to restore, protect or enhance water quality in Hubbard County's lakes, streams and rivers.

Lake associations, nonprofits, student groups, faith organizations, schools and neighborhood groups are invited to submit ideas on solutions to reducing storm water runoff.

"Anything to do with reducing storm water infiltration in the soil will be considered," explained Julie Kingsley, district manager of the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District and Local Water Plan coordinator.

Legacy Clean Water Fund grants totaling $100,000 will be awarded over the next two years through the Community Partners Conservation Program.

A 25 percent match is required from applicants, which may be in-kind, money or both.

The Local Water Plan Task Force will review and rank applications and make recommendations to the SWCD Board of Supervisors for final project-funding approval.

Community groups will be given resources to build interest in and awareness of the water quality challenges facing the area's lakes and empower the groups to make positive improvements in the form of reduced storm water runoff.

Rain gardens, rain barrels, changes to shorelines and general solutions to drainage issues are among the projects that will be considered.

The SWCD and Local Water Plan Task Force will provide advice and technical guidance on the placement and design of rain gardens and native vegetarian buffers.

The program will share the cost of implementing the structural and vegetative practices in such a way as to ensure landowners retain a stake in the project and take ownership of its future maintenance.

The program is coordinated through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and SWCD.

Contact Kingsley at 732-0121 for information on applying. The two-year grant period runs from January 2013 to December 2014.

Managing irrigation water

Hubbard County is also partnering with Todd and Wadena counties to administer a grant addressing "accelerated ground water protection through irrigation water management."

The counties, with Wadena the primary agent, are hiring an irrigation specialist to monitor irrigation-based water.

The goal of the project is to reduce the amount of nitrates and other water- soluble contaminants that are leaching into sand plain aquifers and help to reduce the effects of irrigation on surface water flows.

Most of the tri-county irrigated acreage consists of highly permeable, sandy textured soils overlying shallow and buried sand and gravel aquifers, the project description explains. Some wells in the area have been found to contain elevated levels of nitrates and detectable amounts of agricultural pesticides, affecting late season flows into the Straight River.

Department of Natural Resources data show that irrigated acres have grown significantly in the past five years.

The SWCD currently has an evapotranspiration (ET) hotline for farmers and golf courses that monitors 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 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 grant will expand use of the technology, with a weekly visit to enrolled fields. The information could be shared through e-mails and websites to those who are not enrolled.

The program would develop best management practices to set a standard for reducing groundwater contamination. A reduction in nitrates in groundwater through low-pressure irrigation is an expected benefit of the project.