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County Board supports conservation efforts on Earth Day

Fri, Apr 25th, 2008
Posted in Government

Kevin Kuehner and Donna Rasmussen, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), detailed projects the district is working with and requested the Fillmore County board's support at their April 22 meeting. As County Coordinator Karen Brown acknowledged, the discussion was timely, as it was Earth Day.

The board gave their support to a Buffer Initiative to encourage farmers "to plant vegetated filter strips/buffers on farmland around and along water resources including streams, rivers, sinkholes and wetlands."

Kuehner explained that the initiative is part of the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) program. Financial assistance will be available for qualifying cropland owners to install the filter strips and current CRP payments in the county now run from $133 to $200 per acre for a 10 to 15 year contract. The county has about 629 total miles of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) protected water ways. He suggested that about 32% of these would benefit from a vegetative buffer. About 1700 acres could be taken out of production.

A letter will be sent out to farmers describing the program, highlighting the areas eligible, and encouraging their participation signed and supported by both the County Board and the Fillmore County SWCD.

Commissioner Marc Prestby questioned the dollars per acre offered, if farmers could make more with the current value of row crops. Commissioner Duane Bakke countered that $133 per acre may be adequate when the soil quality is considered, when it may not be able to support good yields. Kuehner said that those dollar values based on types of soil could be adjusted with the next farm bill. He admitted that as many as 3,000 to 4,000 acres will be coming out of CRP in the next few years. Kuehner hopes that the smaller scale buffer program can compete with higher crop values.

Bakke questioned the recommendation for filter strips being 30 feet to 120 feet wide. He noted that the county ordinance requires a 50 foot width. Kuehner agreed it would be cleaner to suggest at least a 50 foot buffer strip.

Kuehner informed the board that as of three weeks ago, the soil survey is certified and to be posted on the website. Fillmore and Wabasha Counties were the last to complete the update with the last update completed in 1956.

Root River Study

The SWCD is conducting a three year study on the Root River as to its turbidity total maximum daily load (TMDL). Kuehner referred to the 1972 Clean Water Act. The study will establish eleven monitoring sites which will monitor sediment from April to October. The goal is to target locations to improve water quality and to develop realistic goals for the watershed area. Computer models will be used to help estimate sediment loads and to test options to improve water quality.

Bakke asked what has been accomplished since the last study was run on fecal matter. Donna Rasmussen explained that the main source of bacteria is faulty septic systems and feedlot run-off. The study opened the door for obtaining funding to fix the sources of bacteria. This study should open door for funding to improve practices to control erosion. Kuehner suggested that the monitoring sites may one day help in real time flood forecasting. Bakke maintained that ongoing fixes are being implemented all the time.

Bakke complained of the unintended consequences of the fecal matter study. The Rochester Post Bulletin warned of the bacteria levels with bold headlines and caused visitor cancellations in the Lanesboro area. Unfortunately, when the levels were determined not to be a serious threat, the press failed to alleviate the public's concern with that information.

Commissioner Randy Dahl added that possible fixes have come up at hazard mitigation meetings and this is another part of how to prevent future flooding.

The SWCD is cooperating with the county Highway Department to do a complete inventory of road culverts as to their size and condition. The size of the culverts is being considered as a way to slow high waters and limit future flooding events. Bakke recommended that when roads are reconstructed, the effort should be made with the design to retain waters temporarily and slow high water down. It was noted that in the past culverts were made large enough to allow water to get through fast so as not to back up with the culvert or the road.

Rasmussen described their contract with the University of Minnesota Extension to provide classes to homeowners required to make them eligible for a $300 grant for bringing their septic system up to code. Classes are offered about five times per year and help homeowners understand why they are being required to fix their septic systems. The board approved the contract for another year.

Other Business

• County Assessor Cynthia Blagsvedt asked for and received approval for a disclosure statement for citizens using data from the county's GIS, FSA and Soil Mapping information. The disclaimer protects the county. The information is made available as a public service.

• Avery Vrieze of Sumner Township described two instances, the last being this past Sunday, when ambulance drivers were delayed in locating his home to transport him. The last time the ambulance went by into Mower County. He said that a sign for Raven Road was not and has never been in place and asked the board to "get a sign up there." Chairman Randy Dahl said that the sign crew will be sent out there. Vrieze admitted that the dispatcher had given faulty directions as well.

Commissioner Marc Prestby acknowledged that there are other signs still not in place and thanked Vrieze for bringing the missing sign to their attention.

• Changes in the Personnel Policy #20 and #21 were approved. Cash out provisions were clarified and changes for military personnel for Family and Medical Leave were changed for active duty personnel from 13 weeks to 26 weeks of available leave.

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