Local leaders and agencies discuss watershed | News, Sports, Jobs

FAIRMONT– The Fairmont Town Hall boardroom was full Thursday evening in a joint working session attended by members of Fairmont City Council, Martin County Commissioners and District Supervisors. Martin’s soil and water conservation. The subject: the Fairmont Chain of Lakes watershed.

The working session was planned after the Fairmont City Council discussion on dredging the mouth of Dutch Creek and obtaining sediment core samples from Fairmont Lakes.

Jesse Walters from the Martin Soil and Water Conservation District moderated the meeting. He said the goal was to discuss water quality and examine local conservation efforts in the Fairmont Chain of Lakes watershed.

“We appreciate everyone’s concerns regarding the quality of water in the community”, Walters said.

As this was a working session with elected officials, no questions from the audience were accepted during the working session but Walters indicated that they would schedule another meeting for it on another date.

Walters gave a brief overview of what Martin SWCD has done recently regarding the watershed. He explained that the watershed is any water that will flow into Budd Lake, which is the city’s water supply. He said the size of the watershed is approximately 26,000 acres.

He explained how the watershed became a priority for Martin SWCD, starting in 2016, when he was hired.

In May 2016, Walters said levels of nitrates in the city’s drinking water exceeded guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health. This made the Fairmont Chain of Lakes watershed a priority for Martin SWCD.

“This kicked off meetings with a whole series of different agencies,” Walters said.

Martin SWCD applied for grants to address pollution problems he found in the chain of lakes, which included phosphorus, sediment and nitrogen.

Some of the practices implemented by Martin SWCD include water and sediment control basins, wetland restoration, and grassland restoration.

Fairmont’s director of public works and municipal engineer Troy Nemmers also spoke about the nitrate problems in 2016 and what the city has done to combat them.

“We looked at possible solutions we might have to resolve this issue. In the short term, we used the existing well which is connected to the city’s water treatment plant ”, said Nemmers.

In the long term, they looked at mechanical treatment options and standard operating procedures. The city has also worked with the Minnesota Department of Health to develop a nitrate action plan, which the water plant is currently following.

“We were able to obtain a grant from the Ministry of Health to install an online nitrate monitoring system in order to have real-time data on nitrates coming from the lakes”, he said.

Nemmers referred to other collaborative efforts the city has engaged in with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and state departments of health and agriculture.

He said that despite the bad position that Fairmont found itself in, one good thing came out is that the city has received support from different agencies. This led to the city receiving an amount of $ 175,000

grant for the installation of a field bioreactor with passive heating to facilitate nitrate removal during the colder spring months.

“We were also able to obtain Lessard Sams funding for habitat restoration and natural water treatment in wetlands. said Nemmers.

Finally, Nemmers touched on habitat restoration, including spawning habitat for northern pike and habitat for Blanding’s Turtles, which are endangered in this region.

Paul Davis and Scott MacLean of the MPCA participated virtually in the discussion.

Davis, who is based in the Mankato office, said his main area of ​​work was the large watershed of the Blue Earth River. MacLean is also in Mankato and shares a particular interest in the Blue Earth River watershed.

The largest cities in the Blue Earth River watershed include Fairmont and Mankato, although they cover 992,000 acres in eight counties.

Davis said, when it comes to water quality, there are four main things they try to protect: aquatic consumption, aquatic recreation, aquatic life, and drinking water.

The main actions undertaken by the MPCA regarding the watershed include monitoring through the collection of chemical and biological data, assessment using the collected data and comparing it to standards and listing the waters that do not meet the standards. the standard like “Altered”.

“Being impaired isn’t good, but it’s not a horrible thing. It just means that we are not meeting the standards and that we have to make a plan to get back to them ”, Davis said.

Turning to Fairmont, Davis said the main deficiencies are ratings of fish and nutrients in lakes.

“When we talk about nutrients at Fairmont, we are talking about phosphorus. Phosphorus is a nutrient that stimulates the production of algae. When the conditions are right in warm, calm weather, algae can become a problem ”, Davis said.

Data regarding phosphorus levels in Hall Lake over the years has been shared.

“When we look at the data now, the lakes almost seem to be doing well” Davis said.

He said they had sampled this year, but it was a drought year so he might not have provided a full date.

“You will always have a phosphorus bank in the sediment. Every lake is going to have this. It’s just a matter of reducing that over time, limiting what comes out of the watershed… remember, these are lakes in southern Minnesota, they’ve got algae, they’re going to be green. It’s just a matter of trying to reduce these bad events from happening ”, Davis said.

“These numbers look pretty good, but the goal is to further improve the water quality so you don’t have those really nasty algae blooms.” he said.

Turning to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in fish, Davis said he had good news.

PCBs in fish from Budd Lake were first recorded in 1993 and recent sampling showed that the concentration had decreased significantly. Davis said they need to re-sample the same fish and compare it and if it’s below standard, they can remove the listing on Budd Lake.

Commissioner Kathy Smith asked how long it would take to remove the disability from the list. Davis said if they can do the sampling soon, it could be done in a few years.

Davis also provided some background information. He said they are not subject matter experts but have done statewide sampling.

He explained that the reasons for coring are to develop the history of the sedimentation of the lake, to identify “hotspot” sources of contamination and calculate the area in cubic meters and the cost of sediment removal.

“Sediment sampling is more like a clamshell, a device used to grab the top of the sediment sample. This can give you an idea of ​​how much phosphorus is in the lake ”, Davis said.

Board member Britney Kawecki asked if Davis would recommend taking a core sample at the mouth of Dutch Creek now, as water levels are low.

Davis said, “It would depend on what kind of sampling you’re looking to do. What are you trying to find out with the sample.

“I don’t know if finding the chemical composition would help you. I don’t know if you have to do a lot of sediment testing ”, he added.

Kawecki said she believed carrot samples would show the sediment to contain toxins. She asked if sampling of the water at the mouth of Dutch Creek before it enters Hall Lake is being done.

“I don’t know if coring and sampling the sediment would give you a very different picture than sampling water from Dutch Creek”, Davis said.

To conclude the discussion, Walters talked about a watershed, a plan, a comprehensive plan for watershed management in Minnesota. Walters also said they plan to hold a public meeting in the spring of 2022, which would provide the public with an opportunity to raise concerns or ask questions.

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