This Earth Day, we are grateful for our region’s natural resources

Jayne Hager Dee
Jayne Hager Dee

by Jayne Hager Dee
Special to Sun Thisweek
Dakota County Tribune

Every Earth Day, we at the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District reflect on the wonderful natural resources we enjoy in Dakota County. Our staff is grateful for the opportunity to work with members of the community to facilitate voluntary initiatives to conserve land, water, forests and wildlife in our area. We are one of 89 Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the state – and nearly 3,000 across the nation – that provide a neighborly presence to help preserve and protect the natural resources that we all love. The Dakota County SWCD has been around since 1944, and we’re proud of the impact we’ve made.

Four examples of our work in 2016 include:

• Two water and sediment control basins were installed on a farm in Eureka Township to treat gully erosion.  This protected a tributary into the Vermillion River.

• Installation of a 168-square-foot residential rain garden on 170th Street West in Lakeville.  This rain garden will: reduce runoff volume, improve water quality within the Minnesota River watershed, improve wildlife habitat, provide an opportunity for public education and improve aesthetics for the homeowner.

• Several locations dispersed throughout the Vermillion River watershed in the Lakeville and Farmington area are monitored on a regular basis. SWCD staff collect and analyze samples from each location on a regular basis (every two weeks) as well as during storm runoff events and spring snowmelt. Information on water quality, fish populations, habitat quality within the river, stream temperatures, bacteria and flow in the river is collected. The information is used to determine if the Vermillion River and its tributaries are meeting water quality standards, pinpoint issues in specific portions of the watershed and to evaluate long term trends in the health of the river.

• Underground chambers were installed in the ditches at Airlake Industrial Park to capture and infiltrate stormwater runoff. This project prevented 17.5 acre-feet of runoff per year from traveling downstream and 13 pounds of phosphorous per year were prevented from traveling downstream into South Creek, eventually into the Vermillion River. Four partners were involved in this project:  Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District and the landowner, the city of Lakeville.

SWCDs are local units of government that carry out natural resource management programs at the local level. We provide voluntary, incentive-driven approaches to landowners for better soil and cleaner water in the state of Minnesota. Private property owners – using financial and technical assistance from local SWCDs – are implementing a wide variety of conservation practices including restoring wetlands, planting shelterbelts and buffers, designing and installing rain gardens and preventing soil erosion.

Born in the wake of the Dust Bowl, SWCDs have been involved in delivering conservation across America for more than 70 years. Because Minnesota has a wide variety of landscapes and conservation needs, each district operates at the direction of locally elected board supervisors. I represent District 5 and all of Dakota County. This local perspective allows SWCDs to manage the resources and serve the needs of the citizens in their district.

Soil and Water Conservation District staff and supervisors build partnerships with public and private, local, state and federal entities in an effort to develop locally-driven solutions to natural resource concerns. We work with property owners every step of the way from planning to implementation.

Our work results in cleaner water, healthier wildlife habitat, better soil, and a trusted, collaborative relationship with the community. What a great thing to celebrate this Earth Day.

To learn more about how your SWCD can help you, please visit our website at: http://www.dakotaswcd.org.

Jayne Hager Dee is the District 5 supervisor on the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.