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Root River Soil and Water Conservation District
805 State Hwy 44/76
Caledonia, MN  55921
p: (507) 724-5261 ext. 3

Soil and Water Conservation District

Conservation Programs

State Programs

Buffer Law Program

This program is designed to support SWCDs technical assistance efforts in informing and implementing the buffer law passed by Governor Mark Dayton.  The law establishes new perennial vegetated buffers that have an average width of 50 feet with a minimum of 30 feet along rivers, streams and ditches that are classified as public waters. 

Cooperative Weed Management Area Grant


The Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) grant is designed to educate and assist landowners while providing cost share assistance to control invasive plant species on their managed pastures. The cost share funds will allow for financial assistance to control invasive plants in pastures – including woody invasives such as Japanese barberry, multiflora rose, honeysuckle, buckthorn and biennials and/or perennials such as Queen Ann’s Lace, Canada Thistle and wild parsnip.


CWL - Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment Cost-Share


The Clean Water Land & Legacy Amendment Cost-Share funding has been made available for select projects that will accelerate the protection or restoration of water quality.  SWCDs and other local units of government (LGUs) submit application requests for specific projects.  Click here for more information: Legislative Coordinating Commission

Clean Water Fund Stories


Houston County Township Nitrate-Nitrogen Testing Program


The MN Department of Agriculture (MDA) conducted a major revision of the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Plan (NFMP) in March 2015. The plan calls for an assessment of nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in private wells at the township scale. The MDA has identified townships throughout the state that are vulnerable to groundwater contamination and have significant row crop production.

Homeowners in the MDA identified townships will receive a sampling kit in the mail. The water sample will be collected by the homeowner and sent to the certified lab (in a prepaid mailer). If nitrate is detected in the water sample, the homeowner may be offered a subsequent test for pesticides. A trained professional will come to your home to collect the water samples for pesticide analysis.

The MDA works with SWCDs and counties to coordinate the testing program in the identified townships. SWCDs/counties will gain knowledge about the current nitrate conditions in their county to enable more informed local planning and decision-making.

Results from individual wells are sent directly to the well owner (homeowner), along with a letter explaining the results.

After the MDA receives all the well testing results in a township, the data is analyzed and information about well depth, well age and well construction is reviewed. In some cases, visits to wells may be needed to confirm results. After the analysis is complete, the MDA writes a summary document and sends it to the local partner (SWCD). After the local partner has had a chance to review results and the information with community, summary documents will be posted on the MDA web page.


Local Capacity Grant


This non-competitive Clean Water Fund grant invests in building the capacity of local soil and water conservation districts. The grant targets four resource concern areas—Soil Erosion, Riparian Zone Management, Water Storage and Treatment, and Excess Nutrients—and supports increased capacity by funding expenses in the following categories: Staffing, Cost Share/Incentives, Technology/Capital Equipment, and Operations.


Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP)

This program is a voluntary opportunity for farmers and agricultural landowners to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect our water.  Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for ten years.  The program will help address concerns about changing regulatory requirements from multiple state and federal agencies.  Certainty is a commitment provided by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

RIM – Reinvest in Minnesota

The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program, one of the first such programs of its kind in the country, began in 1986 and is administered by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. Landowners are compensated for retiring environmentally sensitive lands into easements that protect and improve water quality, reduce soil erosion, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat on privately owned lands. Managed through a conservation plan, practices are established by planting native vegetation and restoring wetlands. Other benefits include flood control and groundwater recharge.

Click here for more information on the RIM program.

Root River Field To Stream Partnership Phase II Implementation Grant

The Root River Field to Stream Partnership (FSP) is a cooperative project between state and local government, farmers, and agricultural and environmental groups. The goals are to evaluate losses from agricultural fields and measure the effectiveness of conservation practices at both the field and watershed scale. The FSP represents one of the most comprehensive and intensive studies of its kind in the upper Midwest. Three sub-watersheds were selected for this study in 2009. The watersheds are less than 5,000 acres and located within the three main geomorphic regions of Southeast Minnesota. Six years of baseline monitoring has been collected at various scales including edge-of-field, spring-shed and in-stream. Flow weighted mean concentrations and yields have been computed for sediment, nutrients and pesticides. This data along with other complimentary watershed studies and farm practice surveys will provide a benchmark in which to detect water quality changes after additional practices are installed. Sediment, nutrients, pesticides and bacteria are the primary nonpoint pollution concerns.

The goals are to restore and protect the water resources in the project sub-watersheds and downstream areas to make progress toward meeting both local and state water quality goals for aquatic life, drinking water, and aquatic recreation and help restore those waters that are closest to meeting state water quality standards.

FSP fills a critical gap in our understanding of how pollutants transported at the field scale translate into downstream water quality. The intensive baseline monitoring and extensive planning to prioritize the placement of conservation practices provides a comprehensive framework for evaluating practices to guide future implementation activities not only in these watersheds, but the entire Root River watershed and other southeast Minnesota watersheds.

Root River One Watershed, One Plan Pilot Program

Root River, Olmsted, Fillmore, Winona, Mower and Steele counties’ and SWCDs along with the Crooked Creek watershed district have joined together and were selected by BWSR as pilot funded project to work cooperatively as one watershed rather than individual counties and SWCDs to protect water quality as the Root River Watershed as a whole. 

Southeast MN Volunteer Nitrate Monitoring Network

This program is a continued partnership with the SE MN Water Resources Board.  Funding assistance has been awarded by the state of Minnesota through a Minnesota Department of Agriculture grant.  The program is a study of long-term trend monitoring for nitrates in drinking water from private wells.  Volunteer participants from various nodes throughout the county provide samples of their well water for nitrate testing.  These samples are submitted to a certified lab.  Through testing, the nitrate level is determined.  The Root River SWCD acts as the county well network coordinator.  An up-to-date database is maintained with well locations of the volunteer participants along with their contact information.  The SWCD works with a certified lab by providing them the volunteer participants’ information and serves as a local contact for the volunteer participants.  They also distribute newsletters to well owner participants semi-annually and provide written reports of activity to the SE Minnesota Water Resource Board and participates in organizing an annual volunteer appreciation event.

State Cost-Share

Through the State Cost Share Program, landowners or occupiers can request technical assistance from the SWCD office to implement best management practices. Eligible practices include: grassed waterways, terraces, grade stabilization structures, and water & sediment control basins.

WCA - Wetland Conservation Act

The purpose of the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) of 1991 is to maintain and protect Minnesota's wetlands and the benefits they provide.  The Root River SWCD recognizes the importance of the wetlands and partners with Houston County (LGU). 

An SWCD representative serves on the Technical Evaluation Panel (TEP), reviews various wetland conservation applications, provides guidance and technical assistance to consultants, developers and private landowners while mitigating and verifying that projects will be in compliance with the Wetland Conservation Act.  They also write restoration plans for violations or provide exemptions where they apply.

Federal Programs

CREP - Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program


The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a voluntary land retirement program that helps agricultural producers protect environmentally sensitive land, decrease erosion, restore wildlife habitat, and safeguard ground and surface water.

Click here for more information on the CREP program.

CRP - Conservation Reserve Program


The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. The program provides assistance to farmers and ranchers in complying with Federal and State environmental laws, and encourages environmental enhancement.

Click here for a CRP Fact Sheet.

CSP – Conservation Stewardship Program

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary conservation program that supports ongoing stewardship of private agricultural lands by providing payments for maintaining and enhancing natural resources. 

CSP identifies and rewards those who meet the highest standards of conservation and environmental management on their operations.  It also creates a powerful incentive for other producers to meet the same standards of conservation performance, while providing benefits to the public for generations to come. 

EQIP - Environmental Quality Incentive Program

The Root River Soil and Water Conservation District in partnership with the local USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service annually conducts an Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Local Work Group Meeting.

The local input helps determine what practices or systems should receive priority for EQIP funds in Houston County.  Parameters are set in order to prioritize funding to the most critical environmental problems in our county. 

Click here for more information on the EQIP program.

WHIP - Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program

The Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) is a voluntary program for conservation-minded landowners who want to develop and improve wildlife habitat on agricultural land, non-industrial private forest land, and Indian land.

Click here for more information on the WHIP program.

County Programs

AIS – Aquatic Invasive Species Program

The Legislature provides Minnesota counties a County Program Aid grant for Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) prevention.  Houston County has designated the oversight of the county’s AIS prevention efforts to the Root River SWCD.  Funds are to be used to educate the public of this resource impairment and to prevent the introduction or limit the spread of aquatic invasive species at all access sites within the county. 

Building Site Inspections

The Root River SWCD technical staff assists the Houston County Zoning Department with the review of various building site applications.  On-site visits as well as technical assistance are provided.

MPCA Feedlot Program

The Root River SWCD partners with Houston County in conducting annual feedlot compliance spot checks and provides technical assistance to county landowners/operators with their feedlot needs.

Ag BMP Loan Program

The AgBest Management Practices (AgBMP) Loan Program provides low interest financing to farmers, agriculture supply businesses and rural landowners to encourage agricultural best management practices that prevent or reduce non-point source pollution identified in the local water plan.  The plan reduces existing water quality problems caused by agricultural activities, helps the County implement the local water plan and can be used to fund the private portion of projects partially funded by state or federal cost-share or other sources of funding.

The AgBMP Loan Program allows local governments the flexibility needed to address specific local water quality concerns and provides financing at below-market rates.  The 3% low-interest loan saves you money, making it more economical to implement practices.

Loans for:

*  Feedlot improvements, manure storage basins and spreading equipment

*  Conservation tillage equipment

*  Terraces, waterways, sediment basins

*  Septic systems

*  Variable Rate Technology

*  Well Relocation & Sealing

*  Secondary fuel containment

*  Other projects that improve water quality

Local Water Management Plan

The purpose of the local water management plan is to protect the water resources in the county from point and non-point sources of pollution. Coordination of these protection efforts between the various local, state, and federal agencies and organizations reduces duplication and eliminates gaps in implementation strategies aimed at a common goal of water protection.

The SWCD provides educational and technical assistance in the implementation of Houston County’s Comprehensive Water Plan.  Each year the Houston County Water Plan Committee allocates funds as an incentive to landowners for the installation of push-up ponds.  Additional funds are allocated to reimburse individuals in the testing of their well water if they are pregnant or a toddler is in the home.  Also, in conjunction with Houston County Public Health the SWCD sponsors free nitrate testing clinics periodically.

Other Cooperative Programs 

Crooked Creek Watershed District

The SWCD partners with the Crooked Creek Watershed District by providing technical and administrative assistance to meet various conservation needs in their watershed.

MN Corn Growers Grant

The objectives of this grant is to stabilize and reconnect 1,500 feet of trout stream reducing sediment and phosphorous redistribution, improving aquatic habitat and regulating peak flows by reconnecting stream to adjacent floodplain on the Riceford Creek.  This stream bank stabilization project will educate landowner and resource professionals on low cost practices such as cedar tree revetment.  Collaborating partners in this project include Winona State University, Conservation Corp of Minnesota (CCM), Root River SWCD and landowners.

Rain Monitoring Program

This program coordinates with the Minnesota Climatological Network.  Volunteers throughout Houston County measure and record precipitation on a daily bases. The SWCD acts as a local point of contact, provides the volunteers with the necessary materials and provides the State Climatology Department with the collected recordings on a monthly bases.  


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