Sand Creek Targeted Watershed Demonstration Project

The Scott Watershed Management Organization (WMO) was the recipient of a Clean Water Fund grant as part of the Board of Water and Soil Resources’ (BWSR) Targeted Watershed Program. The goal of the grant is to address multiple impairments in the Sand Creek watershed and its tributaries. More details regarding the project goals can be found here.

The most recent progress report (All Details Report) can be found here

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Technical Assistance and Cost Share Program

The Scott WMO is partnering with three Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCD) that all reside within Sand Creek’s watershed.  Those SWCDs are located in the following counties:  Scott , Le Sueur  and Rice.  The Scott WMO works closely with the SWCDs to administer the Technical Assistance and Cost-Share Program (TACS) which implements conservation practices that work towards improving water quality.  Some of the practices that are being implemented as part of the grant include:  native prairie plantings, cover crops, wetland restorations, grade control structures, and grassed or lined waterways.

Native Prairie
Grade Stabilization

Targeted Capital Improvement Projects

Water quality monitoring found that the middle Sand Creek subwatershed contributed 10 times the amount of sediment to Sand Creek than any other subwatershed.  The middle Sand Creek Subwatershed extends from the City of Jordan upstream, to near the city of New Prague where the creek crosses into Le Sueur county.  It is the reach of Sand Creek that cuts through the Minnesota Valley bluffs dropping water, about 200 to 300 feet from glacial plains down into the river valley.  A feasibility study was completed in 2015 identifying the highest sediment producing sites within the middle Sand Creek subwatershed and also the Picha Creek tributary watershed.  After analysis 16 sites were chosen for field reconnaissance.  These 16 sites were then narrowed down to the highest sediment producing sites to pursue for conservation projects.  The most cost effective sites and ones with the highest benefit to water quality are the ones being pursued for stabilization.

Log Jam Stabilization
Log Jam Stabilization_detail.png

Phase I Project Fact Sheet           Phase II Project Fact Sheet               Phase III is currently on hold

Phase IV Project Fact Sheet

Targeted Riparian (Streamside) Projects

In 2007, the Scott WMO worked with Inter-Fluve Inc. to conduct a fluvial geomorphic assessment of the Sand Creek watershed to identify areas where streamside improvements could be made along Sand Creek and its tributaries.  The geomorphic study serves to help spatially identify sites where riparian corridor improvements may be possible.  The Scott WMO will work with willing landowners on opportunities to assist with those improvements.  As of the end of 2018, 13 projects have been completed through the grant, sometimes with the help of volunteers.

Riparian (streamside) vegetation planting
Riparian (streamside) vegetation planting2

Cover Crops

A cover crop inter-seeder was manufactured and purchased in 2016 that continues to be available forproducers to use in order to plant their cover crop seed.  Also, the SWCDs continue to assist producers in facilitating the use of aerial application of cover crops by coordinating with local pilots to have the seed flown on fields.  As of the end of 2018, seven farmers have worked with the SWCDs through the grant project to try cover crops on 594 acres.

Cover crops
Cover crops2

Story Maps

A story map tells a story using geographic information in maps, photos, videos, narratives and other tools.  A story map was created for the Sand Creek watershed to tell the larger story about the clean up efforts in addition to those associated with just this grant.  In the story map there is information about the following:  description of a watershed, the pollutants that currently affect Sand Creek, what is being done to clean the polluted waters and what residents within the watershed can do to help continue to make improvements.  The story map is located at the following:

Landowner Surveys

In 2017, in partnership with the University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources, the SWMO completed a survey of Technical Assistance & Cost Share Program (TACS) participants’ perceptions of and experiences with Scott County’s TACS program in order to answer a few questions for staff including:

1.) What are program participants’ experiences with and perceptions of the TACS program?

2.) What are landowner’s motivations for participating in the program?

3.) What are landowner’s perceptions of the practices implemented through the program?

4.) How likely are they to enroll in the program in the future?

5.) How do financial incentives (i.e., cost share) influence landowners’ decisions to participate in the program?

6.) What recommendations do landowners have to improve the TACS program?

In 2017, data was collected through a self-administered survey of 373 participants of Scott County’s TACS program.  The key findings from the study were:

Overall, program participants are highly satisfied with various aspects of the TACS program and the service provided by the Scott SWCD staff;

A majority of program participants are likely to work with SWCD staff in the future;

Most program participants reported that the TACS program has inspired them to take conservation action;

Program participants recommended that staff provide frequent feedback about the program, raise program awareness, reduce program complexity, and improve customer service (NRCS);

The biggest drivers of the program participation appear to be environmental benefits of conservation practices, participants’ emotional connection to the land, and conservation ethic;

Availability of financial incentives was an important motivator for most respondents.  A majority of respondents believed that they are receiving the right amount of financial assistance to install conservation practices and are willing to install practices again at the same level of financial assistance;

The biggest constraints to water resource conservation appear to be lack of personal financial resources, equipment, community financial resources, and community leadership (Pradhananga, 2017).

Social Science Based Evaluation of Scott County’s Technical Assistance and Cost Share Program (TACS).  

In 2018, in partnership with the University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources, the SWMO completed a survey to document and understand landowner values, attitudes, and behaviors associated with water resources and conservation practices. Study findings will assist water resource professionals in land use planning and in evaluating program outcomes.  The results will compare the findings to data from a similar 2011 landowner survey (Davenport & Pradhananga, 2012). 

Key Findings 

• Landowners surveyed place a high value on clean water, are concerned about water pollution and its varied impacts, and view themselves as stewards of the watershed. Most landowners reported feeling a sense of personal obligation to use conservation practices and do whatever they can to prevent water pollution. 

• Landowners are influenced in their water-related decision making by multiple groups including family, neighbors, and the local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD). 

• The biggest drivers of conservation practice adoption appear to be stewardship ethic, availability of financial incentives, and perceived benefits of conservation practices. 

• Landowners believe in financial incentive-based programs to drive water resource protection but are unsure or opposed to government regulation and policy change as a driver of water protection. 

• Only half of the landowners surveyed feel obligated to engage in civic actions (e.g., work with other community members to protect the environment or talk to others about conservation practices) or show interest in civic engagement activities and community action in water resource protection. 

• When comparing 2011 and 2018 survey results, Scott County landowners’ concern about the consequences of water pollution for their own lifestyles was higher. 2018 landowners also expressed less skepticism about anthropogenic climate change and its impacts than in 2011. 

• Scott County landowners rated the water quality in their nearest stream/ditch as higher in 2018 than they did in 2011. 

• Overall, Scott County landowners surveyed in 2018 place more responsibility on landowners, as well as local, state, and federal government to protect water quality than landowners in 2011.

Conservation Beliefs and Actions in the Sand Creek Watershed, Minnesota, U.S.A.

Alum Treatment for McMahon Lake

The improvements in McMahon Lake were a collaboration between private landowners, New Market Sportsman Club, the Scott Watershed Management Organization and the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District.  The actions taken contributed to declines in phosphorus levels which included both in-lake management activities and the external watershed of the lake.   The water quality improved, due to controlling curlyleaf pondweed and the completion of multiple restoration projects, and as a result the lake has been removed from the federal impaired waters list in 2018.

Because of the improvements to the water quality of McMahon Lake we chose not to implement the alum treatment and used those dollars for more on-the-ground implementation practices.

McMahon Lake EPA Fact Sheet

Final Report

Targeted Watershed Grant Final Report

Final Report Appendices

Appendices A-G               Appendices L-M

Appendices H-K               Appendices N-O