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
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
March, 2019 Website project update
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.
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 WRAP in 2020. This will tell us how effective our efforts have been.
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 WRAP 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.
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.
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 WRAP 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.
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.
Land and Waters Endowment Fund
Land and Water Update May, 2017:
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.
This update is December 2016:
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/.
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.