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Conservation Stories

These are the stories of private landowners whose dreams were brought to reality through their own grassroots efforts and with the experience, knowledge and support of their local soil and water conservation district. These are stories of patience and preservation, stories of restoration and cooperation. The truly exciting part of safe-guarding our local resources, is that the efforts of a few, always benefit many! So, keep reading. Be inspired by the conservation stories of others and find ways to join the work!

Click on the story images below

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Award-winning Pierz, Morrison SWCD restoration project provides
many benefits

City of Pierz / Hillman Creek Restoration Project

A win, win, win situation!

A $60,000 Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) Grant via the Clean Water Fund provided funding for just that. Not only has the project provided a new scenic vista on the Pierz Golf Course, it also saved the Hillman Creek and garnered an award from the Minnesota Erosion Control Association.

“Nature wins and the city got a good product to provide an area of natural beauty,” said Eric Altena, area fisheries manager at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Office in Little Falls. “Sometimes it’s a win, win, win situation.”

Pierz City Administrator Bob Otremba said a few years ago, erosion on the Hillman Creek near Hole 5 of the golf course was becoming a big problem. A sharp turn in the creek near the confluence of the Skunk River was undermining the integrity of the shoreline from below, while heavy rains and other natural events continued to wear away on the top of the embankment.

Trees were beginning to topple into the creek, and several more were in danger of falling. But there was even more going on that might not have been quite as easy to notice.

 

“That slope, every time it rained, multiple tons of sediment were falling off into the creek,” said Shannon Wettstein, district manager for the Morrison County Soil and Water District (MCSWD). “Literally, you’d have dump truck loads of sand toppling down.”

The sediment was not only impairing the fish habitat in the creek, the Skunk River downstream and the fishing lake at Pierz Campground, it was actually changing the flow of the creek itself. This caused even more stream bank loss and a decline in vegetation, exacerbating the erosion problems.

Seeing this was already a big problem that was only going to get worse, the city of Pierz partnered with MCSWD to find a solution. Wettstein went to work on an application for a CPL grant.

In the application, she highlighted the many benefits of a bank restoration project. She wrote that it would benefit fish and non-game wildlife that use the creek as a migration corridor, protect surface and groundwater by reducing impairments and “have far-reaching benefits for stream water quality and aquatic habitat in the Skunk River, also.”

The project received the full requested amount of $60,000, which also required a 10% match from the city of Pierz. Once funds were in place, it was time to go to work.

Prior to even applying for the grant, a study was conducted by MCSWD and the DNR to determine desired conditions for the site. That was done by studying methods such as the creek’s natural meander and its annual flood cycle.

West Central Technical Service Area provided the engineering for an innovative bank stabilization bench.

“Typically, for bank projects in the past, you’d just dump a bunch of rocks and do a riprap,” Altena said. “That’s not always as functional as other methods. With this, we were able to work with the bank to create a natural structure using wood and vegetation. Not only is it much more stable, but fish and other aquatic species can use it as a habitat.”

The bench is essentially a series of pieces of wood stacked upon one another. Hearty woods like willow and dogwood are used to help the structure hold up to the wet conditions, and soil is used in between rows for stabilization and to promote growth of vegetation.

That last piece, according to Altena, is an important one.

“The intent is to re-establish vegetation along the bank,” he said. “Rock is always going to eventually fall away. Vegetation will continue to grow and get stronger.”

Not only does the structure prevent erosion, it also uses J-Hooks to move the channel away from the shoreline and a berm at the bottom to catch any unexpected erosion that might occur.

Tony Zetah of Mid-Minn Excavation in Motley was tapped to do the work. He not only did what turned out to be award-winning work, he didn’t take long to do it in October 2020.

“The contractor did an excellent job,” Otremba said. “The job took them about five days, and it was very timely, because the river was very low at that time.”

Wettstein said the end result is something that will provide a “huge benefit” for the community in a highly visible area. It is on public land and can be used for fishing and other recreation, along with being on the golf course.

Otremba agreed that it will be enjoyed by both citizens and visitors alike.

“Any tree or vegetation matters on a golf course,” he said. “… It created quite a vista. It’s really a beautiful sight.”

The city of Pierz received the 2021 Environmental Excellence Award from the Minnesota Erosion Control Association as a result of the project.

Wettstein said it was much deserved recognition, as the city stuck by its commitment to the project. Getting the CPL grant was instrumental in making it a reality.

“Ecologically, this is the ideal design,” Wettstein said. “A lot of times, it’s something groups are not able to do because it’s expensive. The fact that the grant covered 90% of the cost was the reason the city was able to do it right.”

This project began on October 5, 2020. Construction Completion Date: October 10, 2020

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Stormwater Diversion Berm

Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum - Little Falls, MN

Protection from erosion.

The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum is located in Pike Creek Township, on the west shore of the Mississippi River, just South of Little Falls, MN.

In 2016, Camille Warzecha, President of the Morrison County Historical Society / Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum, contacted Morrison Soil & Water Conservation District for technical assistances on numerous large erosion areas on the bank of the Mississippi River.

Project Cost Share was provided through MN Board of Water and Soil Resources, State Cost Share Grant funds.

The project consisted of building the storm water diversion berm of topsoil to divert the runoff water around the erosion on the river bank. The size of the berm is 12” tall by 4’ top width, with a 3:1 side slope. The berm is located close to the edge of the parking lot. Erosion control fabric (Curlex II Bionet or equal) was also installed on the parking lot side of berm, with rock riprap protection.

CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS:
1. Remove and dispose of all trees, brush, stumps, obstructions, fence and other objectionable material so as not to interfere with proper function of earthen berm.
2. Excavate or shape earthen berm to line, grade, and cross section as specified.
3. Compact fill.
4. Construct flow channel on an uninterrupted, continuous grade, adjusting the location due to filed conditions as necessary to maintain positive drainage.
5. Provide outlet protection as required on approved plan.
6. Add topsoil, seed, and stabilize earthen berm within three days of installation. This includes blanketing where specified.
7. Maintain line, grade, and cross section. Remove accumulated sediment and debris and maintain positive drainage. Keep earthen berm and point of discharge free of erosion.

 

This Project Began September 9, 2020; Completion Date: October 13, 2020

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Keep the cattle movin'...

Darrel Larsen - Certified Minnesota Agricultural

Water Quality Farmer

Building a conservation-minded cattle crossing across a wetland

The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum is located in Pike Creek Township, on the west shore of the Mississippi River, just South of Little Falls, MN.

In 2016, Camille Warzecha, President of the Morrison County Historical Society / Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum, contacted Morrison Soil & Water Conservation District for technical assistances on numerous large erosion areas on the bank of the Mississippi River.

Project Cost Share was provided through MN Board of Water and Soil Resources, State Cost Share Grant funds.

The project consisted of building the storm water diversion berm of topsoil to divert the runoff water around the erosion on the river bank. The size of the berm is 12” tall by 4’ top width, with a 3:1 side slope. The berm is located close to the edge of the parking lot. Erosion control fabric (Curlex II Bionet or equal) was also installed on the parking lot side of berm, with rock riprap protection.

CONSTRUCTION SPECIFICATIONS:
1. Remove and dispose of all trees, brush, stumps, obstructions, fence and other objectionable material so as not to interfere with proper function of earthen berm.
2. Excavate or shape earthen berm to line, grade, and cross section as specified.
3. Compact fill.
4. Construct flow channel on an uninterrupted, continuous grade, adjusting the location due to filed conditions as necessary to maintain positive drainage.
5. Provide outlet protection as required on approved plan.
6. Add topsoil, seed, and stabilize earthen berm within three days of installation. This includes blanketing where specified.
7. Maintain line, grade, and cross section. Remove accumulated sediment and debris and maintain positive drainage. Keep earthen berm and point of discharge free of erosion.

 

This Project Began September 9, 2020; Completion Date: October 13, 2020

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Extreme Slope Stability Concerns

Mississippi Riverbanks

Extreme Slope Stability Concerns

Streambank Stabilization – 249’ to include drain tile installation, bank repair, shoreline rock rip-rap, and vegetative plantings.

The site is located in the Southwest ¼ of Section 18, Township 40 North, Range 32 West (Little Falls (W) Township), Morrison County, Minnesota. The property has experienced several slope failures and shoreline erosion. The slope failures appear to be caused by groundwater seepage along a soil interface of stream sediment/glacial outwash over glacial till. There have been unsuccessfully attempts to repair the slope in the past.

The objective of the project was to control the groundwater flow leaving at the soil interface, repair the slope at a stable condition and reinforce the toe at the river bank. West Central Technical Service Area (WCTSA) Engineering in cooperation with the Morrison Soil & Water Conservation District designed this project.

The slope stability concerns appeared to be caused by ground water seepage along the interface of the sand and clay layers. Seepage was observed within the failure plane at a point where the clay layer daylights to the surface and the slope steepened. The design included a perforated tile to intercept the seepage water prior to reaching the slope and outlet to a stable location at the toe of the slope. A bench was excavated near the base of the slope failure and a drainage geocomposite was installed to enhance the drainage and add lateral support. Rock riprap was placed along the river bank and up to the elevation of the soil bench. Fill was placed in horizontal lifts to provide slope of 2:1 or flatter. Topsoil, vegetation, and erosion control products were added to promote long term stability of the slope surface and below the failure plane.

This project was designed using NRCS Minnesota Practice Standards. The project plans utilized several NRCS Standard Drawings and Construction and Material Specifications. Construction inspection was completed based on the Quality Assurance Plan and NRCS guidelines.

The description of the damage was extreme sloughing of the shoreline into the Mississippi River. (see photos) Estimated at over 250 cubic yards of sediment and continuing with every storm event.

This work is needed to safeguard lives and property from an imminent hazard of floodwater and erosion.

This Project Began June 8, 2017. Completion Date: August 7, 2017.

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