PRWA has been in existence since 2005 and has been involved in a number of projects. This section presents information on these projects. Some are presented because it is important history or relationships that continue to be meaningful. The projects we are presently working on will let the reader know when it was last updated and the plan for the next update. This will be done in the comment section right below each Project Title.
We have learned two important things from our past experiences. First, what happens on the land determines your water quality; and second, understanding and being able to connect government agencies, local governments, local organizations, like lake associations and residents, are needed to protect the land and waters of our watershed. The MPCA Pine River Watershed Project and the resulting Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) is a critical element in identifying specific projects for restoration and protection around the watershed.
The One Watershed One Plan (1W1P) project is the next critical step in managing resources and activities from a watershed perspective. The 1W1P will be completed by end of 2019 and hopefully will receive the funding to implement the plan. Throughout 2019 there will be presentations on this project.
One Watershed One Plan
We continue to work on the Grazing Management Project. Our initial meeting after the general survey of producers in the area identified 12 who would like to work on improving grazing management practices. The plan is to meet with these people and create specific plans. We have worked with Jon Teune in the past on the Arvig Creek site. The creek bed has been revegetated but we also wanted to use cover crops on the adjacent farm field. Initial efforts didn’t work. In a discussion with John he has proposed we try a cover crop effort on another one of his fields that he believes has more erosion and runoff issues. I agreed and ask him to develop that plan and PRWA would look at supporting it or using 1W1P monies.
February 2020: During 2019 Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (CW SWCD) lead an effort to create a One Watershed One Plan (1W1P) for the Pine River Watershed. This was completed and submitted to the Bureau of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) for grant funding. BWSR approved the plan and approved a grant funding of $482,000 for the implementation of the plan.
On October 3rd a roundtable discussion was held with residents and participants in the 1W1P process to begin putting together a work plan for using the funds provided. Again under the leadership of CW SWCD the work plan will be generated over the winter with the goal of having projects established by spring to begin using the funds.
Two activities are already underway related to the 1W1P. First, this is an effort to provide data for developing a lake specific plan for lakes in the watershed. This information would allow specific lake improvement plans to be established. These plans will be created by Moriya Rufer of Hoffman Engineering. The cost of creating these plans will be from 1W1P with some cost sharing from the lake associations.
The second activity is a Grazing Management study to first develop an inventory of how grazing land in the watershed is presently being used and connect with local producers who would be interested in exploring best management practices for grazing. Improved grazing practices will produce healthier soil which prevents runoff. Two local farmers, Abe Hollister and Denny Blowers, were hired to do the survey and talk to local producers about practices. The initial survey results were reviewed and 13 local producers were identified who would like to work with us on best practices. The two consulting farmers will again meet with these 13 producers and create specific plans that will be part of the 1W1P work plan and funded accordingly. Abe and Denny will help create the plans and then work with CW SWCD and NRCS for support and funding.
Some of this activity will show up in other projects presently being addressed by PRWA. Arvig Creek is one project that will benefit from this activity. Abe and Denny will work with John Teune on the cover cropping effort we want to start.
CW SWCD has hired Tom Rapatz, a Central lakes College student to assist with the geographic information system digitizing impervious surface around both Cass and Crow Wing County lakes. Chris, Dan and Melissa shared the Leech and Pine River habitat protection plan with the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
COVID-19 has impacted the roll out of 1W1P. The primary area effected was the Lake Improvement implementation because all the annual meetings of the lake associations we had planned to work with were cancelled. In July we will kick-off meetings with Lower and Upper Hay to begin developing specific action plans that will support the goals of 1W1P.
Over the past 18 months CW SWCD has worked with a consultant that has evaluated storm water runoff issues that impact the Whitefish Chain. Among the areas reviewed was the City of Pine River, the City of Jenkins and a number of other sites around the chain. One site was Bertha Boatworks. The action will be to meet with these organizations and put together plans for reduction of runoff using 1W1P resources.
The one area that has some early success is the Grazing Management process. (Read Grazing Management Project in this Project section of the Website).This Grazing Management effort has expanded because it connects with other efforts. Early we made contact with a lot of local producers to develop an inventory on practices and make initial contact. This effort has identified producers who want to work with us an improving land management but it also started an effort on how we help local producers market their product. The Grazing Management Project incorporates 1W1P efforts with the twenty some years of efforts of the Crow Wing River Basin Council efforts, utilizes the resources of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and partners with other organizations such as Happy Dancing Turtle (HDT) and River Advocates, The Nature Conservancy, and the Cass County Farm Bureau and others to identify systematic issues like processing capability and provide farmer/Rancher support.
Cows for Clean Water
This is a Community Market Study for Ranch-raised, locally processed beef. This project was initiated in the fall of 2016. The next update will be late spring of 2017.
The Cass County Farm Bureau, with support from the Pine River Watershed Alliance, has received funding from the University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership to conduct a Community Market Study for Ranch-raised, Local Processed Beef. This project builds on the efforts of community partners that have been working to build relationships between ranchers and lakeshore owners for over 15 years.
The basic premise of the study is to determine the feasibility of marketing responsibly raised beef, from within the Pine River watershed, to downstream consumers that benefits from the increased care and effort put forth by these ranchers. We see this as an opportunity to use market forces to build the local economy while protecting and restoring our valuable natural resources and our rich agricultural heritage.
The funding will allow us to bring in a graduate student spring semester to help design and conduct the study. Watch for more information on this exciting project. Contact Sarah or Miles Kuschel at the Cass County Farm Bureau or Jim Chamberlin (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like more information or to be involved. SEE FULL REPORT HERE
A business plan was drafted after the initial Cows for Clean Water study and the critical next step is the creation of a mobile slaughter unit to support local producers. The plan is to find someone interested in this business opportunity.
There is presently a new pilot project to address Grazing management and work with local producers to establish grazing management plans. Although this effort comes from the same intent to work with Local producers it will be established as a separate project and be reported on as such in the Website Project Area.
There is a new effort which started with the Cows for Clean Water initiative. It began as a market assessment of people’s interest in buying locally produced beef and the concept of a mobile slaughter unit to support local producers. The mobile slaughter unit isn’t being worked on presently but a new idea about selling local beef has been started. The concept is that we should support local producers who practice sustainable land management and soil health practices by purchasing their products. The idea is to work with local producers to market their beef to lake associations. A pilot study will be conducted with one producer bringing their product to the Association of Cass county Lakes (ACCL). This pilot will happen in May and based on how well it is received we will expand to other producers.
This initial effort to learn about our local market for producers was a great starting point and has grown to be a more complex project. We have learned that helping local producers who want to practice soil health is first an education process and then helping with support issues like meat processing; and, providing services like planning and needed financial support to make required changes. Because this project has changed I am asking you to refer to the Grazing Management Project in this section of the Website for continuing information on our efforts.
This effort has expanded into several other efforts. A program called Up the Creek Meats was established to link Producers who practice soil health principles with a potential market for their products through lake association. The program wide effort has slowed but some connections remain.
The initial efforts regarding an understanding of the local market have identified a major issue is processing capability that is available for local producers. The effort now is to help establish processing capability and focus it on local market needs.
The title Grazing Management sort of came out of the 1W1P planning but we have known that good land management practices and soil health are the requirements for having water quality. Proper grazing management, or adaptive grazing management, insures healthy soil, and proper pasture management is a way to insure healthy soil. Once this project was identified through the 1W1P process excess funding (savings in the planning process due largely to previously made connections and organizing in our region around water quality issues) was used to hire two farmer/ ranchers to go farm to farm and assess interest in soil health and grazing management, with the goal of developing local demonstration farms and producer leadership on grazing management. Our goals for this project are educating producers, understanding their issues and concerns, and building a network of people and resources that support a transition to adaptive grazing management.
The Crow Wing Forage Basin Advisory Council was the starting point for efforts to educate both producers and water quality advocates through seminars and field days. The field days are hosted by people who are practicing good land management to share their story and information. In addition to these field days one larger winter seminar is held at the Central Lakes College in Staples, typically featuring nationally recognized experts in grazing and livestock management. Founded by members of the Leader Lions Club and water quality advocates like Jack Wallschlaeger, the Forage Council recently became a network group of the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota, a farmer to farmer networking organization. We are grateful for their support and partnership.
Through these combined efforts more conversation and connections were made, which identified the need to provide producers with help planning how they make changes and also identified the need for resources to help with the adoption of more intensive farming practices. HDT has helped this process by hiring a summer grazing intern who works with producers on implementing grazing plans and upgrading infrastructure. Partnering with our local NRCS and SWCD conservationists, and with the help of HDT, there have been several conservation projects defined and are in the process of being implemented.
The conversations and connections built have created a dialogue with local producers that has begun to identify barriers to adaptive grazing management, including farm profitability. Thanks to the work of HDT and others we have more knowledge of the issues facing local producers and have started efforts to assess the potential for market driven conservation, and better understand local processing and distribution needs to help producers leverage more dollars for their on-farm conservation efforts. Cows for Clean Water was the start of an effort to understand local markets and has expanded into helping local producers market their product through the Up the Creek Meats efforts. The effort hopefully will connect local producers with residents and establish a relationship to buy local. Further market analysis continues with funding through the Agricultural Utilization and Research Institute, Compeer, MN Department of Agriculture and PRWA. Voting with your dollar sends a powerful message to the marketplace. Farmers and ranchers need to make a profit. Let's ensure they are making a profit by farming in a way that protects our soil and water resources.
Another exciting tie to this project is the acceptance of our region as a learning hub of the Grassland 2.0 project through the University of Wisconsin. Grassland 2.0 is a multiyear effort to envision the transition to a grass based perennial agriculture system and how that could impact communities, including environmental, social and economic outcomes. As one of five local learning hubs in the upper Midwest, we look forward to the resources and expertise this program will bring to our area. (This will be its own project once it starts to roll out).
Often we hear about the importance of having well managed forests and that if we have 75% of the watershed forested we have clean water. What the data really shows is that if we develop 25% of a watershed without implementing best management practices, water quality standards will not be met. We will not have 75% of this watershed forested again, but it doesn’t have to be. We have the knowledge and farming methods to develop in ways that are restorative, we just need the will. Agriculture done poorly leads to a degraded environment, rural decline, and poor human health. Agriculture, done well, heals the land, our water, and our community.
Spring 2023 Grazing Management Update
Work continues in the Pine River Watershed to support agriculture that not only protects and restores soil health,
but also contributes clean air, water, and food to our community. Soil health is defined as the continued capacity
of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem. Healthy soil purifies water and creates soil fertility that stays in the
soil profile, instead of leaching into ground water and downstream waterways.
With some sub watersheds of the Pine River Watershed dominated by pastureland, livestock are often blamed for
water quality issues. However, when grazing ruminants are managed on pasture using adaptive grazing
principles, they serve as the biological driver of soil health, increasing water infiltration and holding capacity in
the soil profile.
A discussion first started over twenty years ago between water quality advocates, led by Jack Wallschlaeger, and
upstream farmers and ranchers continues to reap benefits. Last summer over thirty people gathered to tour three
farms in the Pine River Watershed and see grazing and cover crop practices that support soil health being implemented through One Watershed One Plan. These field days created opportunities for farmer-to-farmer networking around these practices, and exposed non-farmers to the challenges farmers and ranchers face in implementing them.
The Pine River Watershed is one of five learning hubs with the University of Wisconsin’s Grassland 2.0 project, an effort to envision and reshaped Midwest agriculture in the image of our native prairies and savannas. Grassland 2.0 representatives attended the Whitefish Area Property Owners meeting last summer and gave a brief report on the project and the value of healthy soil. Over the winter, Grassland 2.0 staff conducted over two dozen interviews with local citizens from all walks of life, to develop a rich picture of the current and desired future condition of agriculture. A community meeting will be held June 3 at the Pine River Legion to share what was heard from community members and affirm the rich picture developed through the interview process.
Market driven conservation can be a long-term solution to water quality issues when it comes to agriculture. Food grown from
healthy soil is higher in nutrient density and contains more compounds that benefit human health. Practices that support soil health
are more diverse and support a broader range of pollinators and wildlife. Healthy soil infiltrates and purifies more water; holding it in
the soil profile for future use by plants, releasing it to groundwater to recharge aquifers, or transport it horizontally through the soil
profile, slowly releasing it to wetlands and surface waters. Supporting agriculture that builds soil health with your food dollars is
To make this easier for area residents, we are working to rebuild local supply chains. Up the Creek Meats is a partnership with the
MN Lakes and Rivers Advocates to connect lakeshore owners with upstream producers who are working to protect water quality.
This is a great way to know your farmer. On a larger scale, we are working to develop a branded retail ground beef product for
distribution to retailers. Opportunities to support in this effort as a consumer will be upcoming.
We often hear about the importance of having well managed forests and that if 75% of a watershed is forested, we will have clean
water. What the data shows is that if we develop 25% of a watershed without implementing best management practices, water
quality standards will not be met. We will not have 75% of the Pine River Watershed forested again, but it doesn’t have to be. We
have the knowledge
and farming methods to grow our food in ways that are restorative, we just need the will. Agriculture done poorly leads to a degraded
environment, rural decline, and poor human health. Agriculture, done well, heals the land, our water, and our communities.
MPCA 319 Small Watershed Grant
An effort was led by Melissa Barrick from CW SWCD and Scott Lucas from the MPCA to apply for this grant. We first did this in 2018 but didn’t get it. We applied again in 2019 and were successful. The funds will be directed to the Whitefish Lake Watershed which is a sub-watershed of the Pine River Watershed. Over 2020 there has been a lot of effort to create a 9 element plan which identifies how we will use the funds provided. The initial amount of funds was believed to be $200,000 but that hasn’t been established. COVID-19 has slowed the process but we will have a meeting in October to review the 9 element plan with the PCA and hopefully the funds will be available for 2022.
The work plans have been completed and consultants hired who have identified areas in the watershed that they believe are major contributors to the phosphorus loading of Upper Whitefish. These site have been identified and now the challenge id finding resources to collect the samples. The challenge is both the number of sites and the testing protocol which wants the sample taken immediately after a rain event. The timing and people required is being worked on.
Pine River Watershed Restoration and Protection Projects
The list of projects below are a direct result of the WRAPS plan:
1. Arvig Creek Watershed Project
Comment: This project was started in the spring of 2016. The last update was December 2016. The next planned update is spring of 2017.
Arvig Creek starts about 2 miles north of Hwy. 2 then crosses Hwy. 2 and flows into Rice Lake. From Rice Lake it flows south across Hwy. 44 and into the Pine River. Although testing was done on the entire Arvig watershed, the focus of this effort was from Rice Lake to the Pine River.
The focus of this project was: (1) restoration of the creek bed; and (2) reviewing the adjacent farm land to see if sustainable farming practices can be used to reduce run-off into the creek. The land owner took the action to fence off the creek bed from cattle and does short term grazing in the creek bed to maintain healthy grass and reduce brush. These actions have already improved the vegetation on the creek bed, and the belief is the creek will begin to heal itself. The second action was to investigate what sustainable farming practices can be used to reduce run-off into the creek. The land owner met with Kent Solberg from the Minnesota Sustainable Farming Association and Jim Chamberlin, Tom Kuschel and myself to discuss options. The option selected was to put a cover crop into the row crop fields adjacent to the creek. The seeding was to occur right after the corn was cropped with standard drill seeding. The seeding was completed in early September, but at the last review, at the end of October, it wasn’t as satisfying as hoped. The reason is the ground was firm and dry which effected the germination. Next spring we will again review the area to see how the cover crop looks and determine next steps. It is believed that sustainable practices like cover cropping will be beneficial for both the health of the creek and to improve soil health for the land which would improve production. The challenge is in making this work. The land owner stated that anytime you change farming practices it will take at least three years to evaluate.
July 2017. The re-vegetation of the creek bed continues to look great. The cover cropping effort done last fall did not work. The plan is now to leave more residue on the crop fields after harvest to try and reduce erosion. We will be looking at new methods of cover cropping. We are also looking at more rotational grazing which benefits the grass and the cattle. The challenge is more labor and costs for fencing.
October 2017. An NRCS grant has been secured to fence off the water hole to the west of HWY 44 across from Arvig creek. This is a manmade ditch that isn’t a natural part of the creek but there is some flow into the creek. The fencing will control cattle movement in the area and allow revegetation. Remember there is a need to periodically graze these fenced areas to build a strong root system for the grass and keep brush down. The present idea is to have this completed this fall. Calls to me about cattle in the creek are more from this water hole than the actual creek so my phone calls should be reduced.
Two significant steps were taken on Arvig by the farmer. First, John increased the number of paddocks in a pasture to 8. He was very impressed with the result in amount of forage that this produced. The grass was knee high when a new paddock was opened and the feeding cribs that are for supplemental feeding in the absence of forage were not touched throughout the summer. Cows apparently find fresh grass to be better. This is just the first year and John says it takes three years to really have confidence the new system works.
One field we hoped to use cover cropping to reduce erosion has been improved by changing the direction of the rows so they follow the contour of the hillside. Even with some significant rains erosion was reduced.
We still want to use cover cropping. This practice does have a positive impact to erosion but also builds soil health which has many additional benefits. The plan is to develop a seed mix that will work and then seed earlier than we have in the past. The issue is broadcast seeding by helicopter is the best method but both seed and helicopter are expensive.
We will do a reevaluation of Arvig as part of the WRAPS in 2020. This will tell us how effective our efforts have been.
This year there will be testing done to see how well the revegetation of the creek channel worked to address the issues identified. Besides the revegetation we wanted to establish cover crops on an adjacent row crop field. The initial attempt failed. This year as an offshoot of the Grazing Management effort we will put together a cover crop plan for another field. Although this field doesn’t impact Arvig it is a source of runoff into another creek. Learning how to do successful cover cropping in our area is a skill we want to develop.
This project started as part of a Watershed Restoration and Protection project. The creek had deteriorated and thanks to the work of the land owner the creek was fenced and revegetated. The follow-up was to resurvey the creek in 2020 but due to COVID it has been rescheduled for 2022. This is important because it will verify that our corrective action worked. We will let you know next year.
2. Willow Creek
This project was started in the fall of 2016. The initial assessment and meeting with the land owner was completed. The focus of this project is the restoration of the vegetation in the creek bed to reduce sediment flowing into Upper Whitefish. Target update with project details in May, 2017.
A team has been formed and their initial assessment is that the protection and revegetation of the creek bed is the first priority. A plan for this will be developed and then ideas on additional steps will be documented.
Willow Creek update May, 2017:
Willow Creek will be a large multi-year project. Willow Creek was identified in the WRAPS as a major source of sediment loading to the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. The leadership of the project is Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (CW SWCD) Darren Mayers. The rest of the primary team members are Jim Brand, who is project leader for PRWA, Jeff Laurel from WAPOA and the Long Family who are the land owners of the area of the creek we are addressing.
A meeting was held with the team members and the following initial steps are underway.
Removal of cattle from the creek. This will be accomplished by fencing the south side of the creek and providing a water source for future cattle us. The Long Family has received a grant from NRCS of $4,500 for this effort. The Long family intends to install the fence themselves.
PRWA has received an additional grant of $25,000 for the Willow Creek Project. This is for the restoration of the creek bed, both revegetation and reconstruction.
The $7,200 from WAPOA and PRWA will be used as matching funds for the PRWA grant and supplement the NRCS funds for fencing and watering system. It has been our experience that the NRCS grants don’t entirely cover the actual cost of fencing and watering.
The Long family is working on the north side of the creek to remove old pine and reforest the area. This is presently being done by them alone. The team’s future involvement in this effort has not been defined.
CW SWCD has another grant pending for $30,000 for this project. So at present this project is funded to a level of $66,700.
A restoration plan is being developed by engineering resources from CW SWCD for steps to be taken to revegetate and rebuild the creek bed.
Jim Brandt is beginning work on what will be phase two. Although restoring Willow creek through the Long Farm is important we need to work issue upstream from there to provide a lasting solution to the problem.
There are a lot of steps and activities with this effort. We are putting together the project plan to insure we have defined actions and timing. The target for the completion of the plans is June 20th. On June 20th at 3:00 PM the PRWA Annual meeting at the Ideal Community Center, Darren Mayers will layout the project. Please join us at the meeting.
July 2017.This is our biggest project. The fencing of the creek is complete thanks to help from the Conservation Corp. The next steps is establishing the well and putting in the tank for watering the cattle when the field is opened again next year. The challenge is to get this completed by fall. The issue with most grant funds is you must meet detailed specifications and timing requirements. This first step is based on funding from NRCS( National .
We have secured approximately $60,000 in funds, including the NRCS grant for this fencing portion of the project. We are waiting for the complete plan from our engineering resources to put together a step by step process for this effort. Revegetation along with some stream bank rebuilding will be the next steps.
The Long family hasn’t rented the pasture this year in order to give time for the work. They are also clearing old pines on the land just north of the creek with the intention of additional forest development and to keep this area as a recreational area and not returning it to pasture.
This is a big project both from a labor perspective and timing of work with grant requirements. Working with the Long Family who are real stewards of their land has been special.
October 2017. The NRCS grant activity has been completed and now we are finalizing the plan for our next steps. We have approximately $55,000 to continue the effort of restoring this area. The work will be done this fall and next spring.
The rebuilding of the Creek channel with the grant for $55,000 was completed in November of 2018. This effort along with the 2017 revegetation effort will greatly improve and reduce the sediment runoff in Upper Whitefish. Besides these efforts the Long family has been working on the land adjacent and just north of the portion of the creek where all the work was done to reforest it and basically make it a park for their family.
Next steps are to better understand the hydrology above the area that has been worked on to see what needs to get done. Also, hopefully in 2020 we will reassess the sediment flow to get a hard number on improvement.
The rebuilding of the creek bed has been completed. With the follow up testing as part of the WRAPS effort we will be able to tell if there has been a significant reduction in sediment flowing into Upper Whitefish. There are more activities is this area that should continue to improve the sediment issue. The Grazing Management project should reduce erosion with the improvement in land practices. We plan to get a better understanding of the hydrology in the area and the Upper Whitefish Project and the expansion of water testing should help us evaluate how well we are improving the sediment issue.
3. Upper Hay Lake
Initial discussions with Lake Association held in the fall of 2016. Project plan targeted for spring of 2017.
July 2017. Last fall at a meeting with the association, we discussed efforts needed for the reduction of phosphorus through shoreland management and phosphorus removal. Information on phosphorus removal has been reviewed with the primary issue being expense of implementation. There have been a number of shoreland projects over the years to reduce erosion. The problem is ice damage has had negative effects on these efforts. We have asked a technical person to tour these areas to see if there are methods that will stand up to this ice problem which happens a lot. This trip will happen in August.
Upper Hay also has an public boat access that needs work and will be included in whatever efforts are undertaken to reduce run-off into the lake.
October 2017. A tour was completed and the initial attempt at a one pager was completed. Comments from the Upper Hay association were positive and they believe will be helpful. There has already been a lot of positive shoreline restoration completed on Upper Hay.
The Upper Hay Lake Association has been one of the most active associations at implementing shore land buffers. This past year a lot of the work that was done was damaged by ice out issues. I have not heard whether there is any theory on why this is happening and what might be done but it needs to be addressed.
The plan is to incorporate efforts into the 1W1P process.
As stated in the last update we had planned to and will do further reporting in the 1W1P section under Lake Improvement efforts. We have a kick-off restart meeting schedule for July 15, 2021. Looking forward to producing specific actions plans from future efforts.
4. Lower Hay Lake
Initial meetings with Lake Association held in the fall of 2016. The lake Association with the help of Crow Wing SWCD did a shoreline review of the lake as an initial step to creating a project plan. Project plan targeted for spring of 2017.
After meeting last fall the environmental committee of the lake association did a tour and assessment of the shoreland area of the lake. The DNR landing was identified as an area that needs work. The issue here is cost and we need to get support of the DNR for the design and implementation.
There were areas where erosion was noted and these will be reviewed as we go forward.
The first thing that will be addressed is fire pits on the shore. There is no problem with fires near the shore as long as the ashes are not allowed to wash into the lake. Ideas on how to address this are being put together. On other item that came up was boats with larger engines moving fast in shallow water. A fifty horse engine can stir up sediment in 15 feet of water if driven fast. This brings more phosphorus into the water column and creates more vegetation. The plan is a note sent to residents asking them to go slower in shallow areas.
Shoreland buffers always help maintain the water quality of a lake. The challenge for all these projects is getting land owners to become land stewards. There is no quick payback for someone improving the management of their shore other than the feeling of protecting something they love for future generations. Working with individual lake residents on shoreland management is needed.
October 2017. The Lower Hay association has been working on issues causing increased nutrient loading. One quick effort was a note to lake residents about reducing boat speed in water shallower than 15 feet as this stirs up the bottom and moves nutrients into the water column. We are also planning a boat tour of the lake in October to do the same process as Upper Hay. The goal is a one page document that incorporates the information in the WRAPS into a simple document for the lake association to use to focus their efforts.
The boat tour produced the single report for possible actions and the Lake Association will be using it to focus their efforts. Besides this the Association has begun working with larger landowners on potential land management activities like conservation easements and Forest Management plans. Members from this association, like Alan Sherburne, have communicated water issues to more people than just on Lower Hay.
The plan is to incorporate efforts into the 1W1P process.
Like Upper Hay with COVID we have not made the progress on Individual Lake Improvement plans but we are doing a restart July 15, 2021. We will report on actions in the 1W1P section under Lake Improvement.
5. Bertha/Clamshell Lakes
Initial meeting with Lake Association help in the fall of 2016. A potential project was defined but all land owners effected weren’t able to be contacted so the plan was to start again in the spring of 2017 with an assessment which will be done by Crow Wing SWCD.
July 2017. Last fall a specific shoreland erosion problem was identified. Work is still underway to get all the property owners together and once that is complete a technical assessment will be completed and a plan developed.
October 2017. There has been no specific action on the initial project defined last year. Presently the plan is to complete the one pagers on Upper and Lower Hay and use these to create a template that can be used by other lakes. Bertha/Clamshell will be first on the list.
Clean Water Partnership
This project has been completed but is left here for history. This study provided critical information for the Pine River Watershed project. No planned updates.
In December of 2009, the Pine River Watershed Alliance (PRWA) in partnership with Cass County Environmental Services received a Clean Water Partnership (CWP) grant of $105,712. The CWP was a grant through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) that funds Diagnostic Study and Implementation. This grant was a diagnostic study to discover the baseline characteristics of the Pine River, Daggett Brook and the Whitefish Chain of Lakes. This study was completed in 2012.
The calculation has given results of the water volume and chemistry discharging into the Whitefish Chain and the water volume and chemistry discharging out of the Chain. This information was used along with the assessments done in 2013 and 2014 by the Minnesota Department of Natural resources (DNR) and the MPCA as part of the Pine River Watershed Project. The watershed project is a ten year effort to assess and then develop and implement plans to protect or improve the water quality of the watershed.
Bungo Creek Project
Bungo Creek has been identified as a major source of phosphorus entering the Whitefish Chain. This conclusion is from testing done in the Whitefish Chain Phosphorus Loading Study. This fact prompted the Land Use Study started in October of 2011 and completed in 2012. All reports are available by contacting PRWA through the website.
Lake and river studies over the past 10 years identified Bungo Creek as the major source of phosphorus entering the South Fork of the Pine River and subsequently entering Upper Whitefish where it is settling in the deep lake basin. Testing done in 2010 has confirmed high and increasing concentrations of phosphorus in the deep reaches of the Upper Whitefish basin. The land use Study that got underway in October of 2011 was done by the university by Research Fellow A. Lewandowski of the Water Resources Center under the guidance of Dr. John Moncrief of the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Sciences. Funding for the study was provided by the Central Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the Larsen Foundation, the Pine River Alliance and several private donors. The project studied both land use in adjacent areas to the creek as well as continuous water testing on the creek.
The Bungo Creek Land Use Report identified both the issue of phosphorus loading as well as potential corrective actions. One challenge is that the basic geology of the area introduces more phosphorus than is normally expected. So even with identifying and implementing good land management practices, the level of phosphorus we can reduce would not necessarily meet our goals of 30 to 50 PPM of Phosphorus for the South Fork of the Pine River.
There were two possible solutions to mitigate the level of Phosphorus entering the South Fork. First is to change land management practices in identified locations along the Creek. Two locations were identified. After further assessment, the one land owner had already introduced improved practices. In the second location identified, we were unable to work up a satisfactory process for changing practices. Second is to implement phosphorus removal procedures or processes. There are two technologies presently available; Filter systems and “Islands”. The cost and effectiveness of both are still being evaluated.
Bungo will again be addressed based on positive results from land management practices in other areas of the watershed and proven effective use of the technologies for phosphorus removal.
Crow Wing Forage Basin Advisory Council
What happens on land determines water quality. Based on that, we began working with local agriculture through this organization. This organization primarily provides an educational function through two seminars. They provide education of agricultural practices that protect water quality while improving the economics of the agricultural practices.
PRWA has been a member of the Crow Wing Forage Basin Advisory Council for about 10 years. The Crow Wing Forage Basin Advisory Council is a group of local producers that are supported by Crow Wing SWCD, NRCS and local farm bureaus. Their primary goal is education of producers regarding sustainable agricultural practices. This is done through two yearly seminars; one in the summer and one in the winter.
Two partnerships have grown out of this relationship. First, at two summer seminars, the program has been a joint education effort between a lake association and the Forage Basin. Basically, producers and lake residents are learning together. The second partnership has been the creation of the Harvest Dinner. This is an annual dinner which brings together lake residents with producers over a great meal. The food is provided by the producers and prepared by local chefs. Besides a great meal and a chance to build relationships, there are speakers on environmental related issues and other local information.
October 2017. The Harvest Dinner this summer was a success in spite of the rain. There were about 125 people and the exact number will be established when we do our wrap up and planning meeting later this fall.
The Forage Basin puts on two seminars a year. It has grown and now the seminars are linked with the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota and Central Lakes College (CLC) in Staples. In August at the CLC Ag Day the afternoon session was put on by the Forage Basin with a tour of land that RDO is farming. It was well attended and working with a large corporate farming organization like ROD is producing results. The winter seminar will be at Staple CLC with the Flyers going out in late November.
Next year’s summer seminar will try to bring up a couple of Gulf Coast Fisherman to share the challenges they now have due to the dead zone in the Gulf. The present dead zone is the size of New Hampshire requiring the fisherman to travel miles to get to water that holds oxygen and fish or shrimp. The issue with expanding sustainable farming practices is getting farmers to realize the issue present practices have caused. Fisherman live off nature like farmers so getting them to understand their issues and talk with each other is the plan.
The efforts and impact of the Forage Basin continue to grow. Both of the summer workshops and winter seminar are well attended and the sustainable practices that are taught seem to be catching on with local producers. One thing that has been seen is the change to sustainable practices. Things like grazing management initially take more time and investment, such as fencing. A new project has been started to address Improving Grazing Management in the Watershed. The hope is to do a small pilot study were we are able to partner with a few local producers who want to change practices so we can better understand the barriers.
We have just started talking about 2019 Harvest Dinner. It will be in August so watch for information.
Also, please visit our Pine River Watershed Facebook page for local sustainable farming info. It is worth your time to go to one of the sessions.
The CW Forage Council continued its education efforts with the Winter Seminar on Feb.20th at CLC in Staples. Planning is now taking place for the summer seminars which focus on tours of producers practicing sustainable land management practices. These efforts help with the education and changes we are doing in the Grazing Management Project. It is worthwhile if you get the chance to attend one of these seminars. Also we place a lot of sustainable farming information on our Facebook page.
The Forage Basin group continues its education efforts with field trips and the large winter seminar. Over the twenty years I have been involved this group has moved from a simple grass roots organization to a strong integrated effort with NRCS, SWCD, Cass County Farm Bureau, Central Lakes College at Staples and the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota. This network continues to strengthen and will be part of the new Grassland 2.0 effort for educating and supporting efforts for sustainable farming practices. I recommend if you can to look up the dates of these CW Forage Basin seminars, especially the field trips and attend one. It will become obvious just how much effort the farming community is putting into sustainable practices which means clean water.
The Forage Basin continues it education efforts through summer tours and a larger winter seminar.
The partnerships that have been developed with the Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota along with the new effort with Grassland 2.0 will greatly strength the education effort along with providing funding for these efforts.
There is a link on the home page to the CW Forage Basin. This will identify education efforts like summer tours, and I suggest attending one. It is a great learning experience.
Land and Waters Endowment Fund
Land and Waters is a Preservation Trust of the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association (WAPOA) and the Pine River Watershed Alliance (PRWA). The purpose of the Trust is to provide funds for the preservation and protection of water quality and the ecosystem in the Pine River Watershed. The Trust assets are managed by the Initiative Foundation. The committee that administers the fund is made up of three Board members from each organization. The end goal is to build an endowment of $1 Million dollars which would provide about $50,000 a year for grants.
As of December 2016 we are at $225,000. We have made one small grant to the Pelican Lake Association in 2015. In 2016 we received no grant applications by the stated deadline. We have restructured the grant process with the Initiative Foundation and have set new timing and grant process procedures to hopefully encourage more grant applications. This information is available on the PRWA website. Go to www.prwa.us; on the home page click on Links and Resources and download the grant procedure and application. $7,200 is available for grants in 2017.
We continue to work to raise funds through yearly mailings and small group get togethers with people we hope will be donors. We are also looking into events for raising funds. You can participate and donate by contacting PRWA or WAPOA or donate directly through the Initiative Foundation at http://ifoundconnections.org/where-to-give/land-and-waters-preservation-trust/.
The current Endowment Balance is $254,900 (including $11,500 in pledges).
Land and Waters had $7,200 available for granting this year. Two grant applications were received. One from Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (CW SWCD) and the other from WAPOA. The grant was awarded to WAPOA for a jump start funding of the expansion of the water testing effort on area lakes. The committee also decided that the CW SWCD project for Willow Creek had real merit so the Committee requested that both WAPOA and PRWA Board fund this project for $7,200. Both Boards agreed and each organization will provide $3,600 for this project.
The committee will be working to replace John Forney who resigned as Chair and continuing the efforts of building the fund to its goal of one million dollars. All contributions are welcomed.
The goal is to build this fund to $1 million dollars. This would provide a yearly flow of $50,000 which would be used to support projects in the Pine River Watershed that protect water quality and the environment. There are fund activities each year. We will update the amount of money raised each year at the same time as the announcing of available Grant Funds.
There were two grants made in 2019. The first was a $5,900 grant CW SWCD received to support the Grazing Management Project and to start the inventory of present land practices. The second was $5,900 to support the Manhattan Point Blvd. runoff abatement project. This reduces the runoff into Crosslake from CSAH 66. Both of these projects asked for $10,000 and it was our judgement that both had tremendous value for protecting our waters. We made a recommendation to the WAPOA and PRWA Boards that they supply additional funding so both projects would be fully funded. WAPOA and PRWA did approve additional funds for both projects.
As of this date February 15th we have not received any grant applications for 2020 that meet our requirements.
July 2021 Update
The grant activity done in 2019 for grants awarded in 2020 was slow. Although we had some grant requests most didn’t fit our grant guidelines. We did make one grant to the National Loon Center for $4,000 and the remaining funds, $9,200 was carried over to the grant process for 2021.
The number of grant requests in 2020 for 2021 was excellent. We made grants to 6 different organizations to support their efforts. We granted a total of $21,950. Our ending balance for the Trust as of 2/28/2021 is $310,000.
Grants awarded for 2021:
Ruth lake Improvement district for education on AIS control. ($500)
RALALA for Shoreland Restoration and Community Education. ($5,000)
Crosslakers/CW SWCD for data collection and modeling of proposed filtration system to reduce sediment and phosphorus runoff into the Pine River from CSAH 66. ($5,000)
Camp Knutson for the continuation of shoreland restoration project. ($2,550)
Pelican Lake /CW SWCD for storm water remediation, Breezy Point Resort/Point Place Association Area. ($5,000)
Fifty Lakes Property Owners for installing Clemson Levelers in Fox Creek to stabilize Kego Lake water level. ($3,900)
It is a great year when we see so many worthwhile projects going on in the watershed from so many active groups. Our hope is this trend continues.
In 2022 Land and Waters gave out 4 grant totaling $11,534. They went to Camp Knutson, CW SWCD/Kastner project, RALALA/Nicholson and RALALA/Olson project.
In 2023 6 grant applications have been received and are presently being reviewed. Total amount to be granted this year is $18,000.
Forest Stewardship Program
This is a program managed by Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District. It promotes effective management of forest areas. The PRWA website contains information on the Forest Management Program under Links and Resources.
The management of land is critical to water quality of a watershed. It has been determined that maintaining healthy Forests areas in a lake watershed, protects the waters of that lake. PRWA is using this Program as a resource for some of our projects evolving out the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) plan.
With any organization, the need for the administrative functions exist. PRWA is no different. In the first 10 years our needs were small. As we now look at our future and the challenges we face, growth is required in revenue for the needed financial resources, but also members that we will draw from for Board and project activities. The focus of this area for the coming years will be increasing membership and communication processes.
PRWA has a goal over the next three years to build a membership of 500 and a yearly revenue stream of $20,000. This can only happen by expanding our communication to watershed residents about what PRWA does and why it is important.
Many of the projects we are now undertaking are larger and more expensive so we need your help. If you are not a member please join. If you are a member get your neighbors to join. We hope we are making strides in protecting our area for future generations but we can’t get it done without your help.
The size and number of projects PRWA is taking on and involved with is growing. Our partnership with CW SWCD has been excellent and has not only identified projects but is also providing funds for implementation. This requires more revenue for PRWA. We have a small number of members who continue to increase their support but we need more members. Please join and help us build our membership and protect our water and land resources.
July 2021 update
Even with COVID momentum was maintained even though we weren’t able to pull together teams to work specific issues. We continues to expand our efforts and hopefully our impact. With this increase I am requesting that as you read through all these activities you challenge yourself to become a part and join our Board or some specific project in your area of interest.
We need a lot of help with expanding our membership as well as finding more volunteers for the Board and projects.
Crosslake Water Quality Group Activity
July 2021 Update
The Crosslakers Water Quality Work Group is working on these major efforts:
Projects that address the runoff from County Highway 66 (these are a continuation of an earlier Hwy 66 project on Big Trout Lake). The first project is located at Hwy 66 and Manhattan Point Blvd (near Manhattan Beach Lodge) and is designed to route runoff from a 42+ acre area and filter it using mechanical filters and a retention pond before channeling the water into Loon and Island Lakes. All the current projects are joint efforts by the Crosslakers working with the City of Crosslake and Crow Wing County along with the very strong and able support of Crow Wing County Soil & Water. The total cost of the first project will be over $600,000 with the key funding coming from the $475,000 Clean Water Fund Grant. This project will remove significant amounts of phosphorus and sediment that previously had been directed into the lakes of the Whitefish Chain. The project is scheduled to begin construction in the spring of 2020.
The second Hwy 66 runoff management project is funded by a $315,000 Clean Water Fund Grant located between the old Crosslake City Hall and the intersection of Hwys 66 and 16.This grant is intended to redirect runoff which for over 40 years has run directly from the highway storm sewers into Cross Lake.The runoff will be redirected to retention ponds on both public and private property where it will be infiltrated rather than directing it into Cross Lake.This project is tied to and will be part of the proposed extension of the Crosslake Sanitary Sewer line which the Crosslake City Council is contemplating.[NOTE: These two projects combined represent $790,000 of non-tax funding intended to benefit the lakes we all care for (in addition, there was also over $20.000 more in other grant funding such as a Land & Waters grant).]
The third project to manage the highway runoff covers an area of 21 acres between the Pine River Bridge to the Crosslake Charter School.Phosphorus and sediment/debris in rain and melt water will be collected during 2021 and analyzed.The results will then be used to support a grant application to fund the needed filtration system to protect the water.The grant will be submitted in the fall of 2021 and, if awarded, construction is targeted for 2022.This project will deal with runoff that goes into the Pine River and will help protect waters downstream like Big Pine Lake and the Mississippi River.
These three runoff management projects are intended to support the goals of the Pine River Watershed One Watershed, One Plan.
2. The Crosslakers have also been working with the National Loon Center and Freshwater Institute to create the Northern Lakes Initiative which will support their mission to engage, educate, inspire and motivate visitors to improve the coexistence of people and Loons in our shared habitat, the Northern Lakes. The Crosslakers worked in partnership with the University of Minnesota to develop the message and delivery media for this Northern Lakes effort.
Upper Whitefish Project
In 2019 the Upper Basin of Whitefish was basically not usable for boating and swimming due to floating weed mats and algae. A number of people got together and what came out of the discussions was it was a perfect storm of events that caused this. Warmer temperatures and rain events seemed to be contributors. The problem is after all the discussion we really didn’t know what were the causes and most importantly we then couldn’t put together any ideas or plans to prevent this from happening in the future.
Tony Coffey and I got together and decided not knowing what may have caused the problem and the inability to implement plans to prevent future occurrences was not acceptable. The decision was made to hire a consultant with the experience to determine what we need to learn about the causes of this type of problem and then help to develop ideas and plans to mitigate this in the future. WAPOA and PRWA are funding the consultant, Dick Osgood. The final draft of the Whitefish Management plan has been completed and is now being reviewed and discussed.
We have been doing water testing for years. However Dick identified that we need more rigorous data and an understanding of nutrient loading. We also need a better understanding of the vegetation in our lakes, some analysis of the algae we are finding and a better understanding of how AIS, mainly Zebra mussels, may impact what is happening. Generating this more rigorous data will be a challenge but very doable. The algae issue and potential solutions may be more difficult to assess. Apparently algae blooms are being seen in many Minnesota lakes and don’t seem to be connected to things like nutrient loading. We concluded analysis of the algae is needed.
Data from recent water quality testing has Total Phosphorus (TP) in ug/L of the Upper Basin is 24, with 15 and 14 in Middle and Lower respectively. This does indicate the basins are different and Upper receives more loading because it is the initial basin for the large tributaries flowing into Whitefish.
We will be working to establish changes to our testing protocols and communicating this information as we go forward. We are also discussing having Dick present the plan at a WAPOA summer seminar session. Stay tuned.
July 2021 Update
We continue to monitor Upper Whitefish and our expanded water testing protocols. Our hope is we will be able to use this information and reconvene our consultants and develop a picture of what we need as we go forward. We hope to convene the group in the fall and winter of 2021.
Continue testing and with the 319 effort beginning more watershed wide information should be developed on where the phosphorus loading of Upper Whitefish is coming from.
While working on Grazing management efforts we were introduced to this effort. This effort envisions the transition to a grass based perennial AG system and how that could impact communities including environmental, social and economic outcomes. This group presently has 4 education sites, 3 in Wisconsin and 1 more in Ohio. We will be the fifth education site. This will bring additional resources to our area both for education and financial resources to help farmers make required transition. Thanks to HDT and the Forage Basin who will be active in this effort.
Creating a regional roadmap to a regenerative future for the Midwest Our goal is to create a pathway toward a regenerative food and farming system that delivers stable profits for farmers, rural community vitality and a healthy ecosystem. By working with diverse communities and landscapes across the Upper Midwest, Grassland 2.0 and its local and regional partners will gain an understanding of how to create a scaleable roadmap for local and regional transformation. Grassland 2.0 Learning Hubs Working with local partners in five watersheds to foster place-based conversations in diverse landscapes and communities from the north woods of Minnesota to the rich soils of the Illinois cornbelt.
Our Process Interviews Listening to diverse local voices to gain a shared understanding of our community and landscape, its history and our hopes for the future. Community Gatherings Exploring different future scenarios and identifying opportunities and barriers to getting there. Planning Building a roadmap to a desired future by designing supply chains, planning enterprises, and incentivizing change. Projects Starting on the journey and creating local and regional support systems to help get us there.
At Grassland 2.0, we are working with partners in Learning Hubs to: Inspire • Understand the challenges farmers currently face • Develop a vision for a healthy agroecosystems • Tell the stories of thriving regenerative farms and landscapes Create • Bring people together to identify and plan pathways for locally driven change • Develop and share knowledge, tools and strategies • Research the benefits of regenerative farming Grow • Develop tools to support regenerative farms and markets • Advocate for policy that supports grass-based and perennial farm and food systems • Support and strengthen organizations that implement change.
Pine River Learning Hub: Jim Chamberlin Conservation Technician Happy Dancing Turtle email@example.com (218) 831-0528
All Grassland 2.0 Learning Hubs: John Strauser UW–Madison Extension Grassland and Perennial Agricultural Outreach Specialist firstname.lastname@example.org
We have focused on a new communications plan this year that includes press releases. Human interest stories, and sharing information through Facebook and email. Thanks you to Sheila Boldt and Tasha Lauer for keeping the website up to date and actively sharing information on Facebook.
In the fall of 2020, Jodi Eberhardt launched a new blog site to help share information on lake stewardship practices. The blog is a joint effort between Land and Waters and the Pine River Watershed Alliance. It can be found at either of these websites: www.landandwaters.org and www.loveyourlake.info. (Same information just different ways to get there.)
In 2021, we are focusing on publishing human interest stories about projects that are having a positive impact on water quality. These stories have been shared in socials media as well as published in local papers. Camp Knutson shoreline restoration, WAPOA willow waddle workshop, Lake Stewards on the Gull Lake Chain, Crosslakers managing runoff, and Trout lake camp.