Water, meet soil

I have been a supervisor for the Pennington Soil Water and
Conservation District for one year. When I ran for election, I knew a
little about the SWCD as I am a landowner and have received help in
my own conservation efforts from SWCD as well as the Natural
Resources Conservation Service. Over the last few years, we have
placed larger culverts at the end of ditches which transport water
from our fields into a larger judicial ditch which eventually becomes
the Black River. These ditches formerly created erosion as the angle
of the field ditch increased as it got closer to the judicial ditch.
The water then flowed too quickly and wore a path into the soil. This
is the point at which we placed culverts to transport water the last
forty feet or so. We then built a landing pad for the water which was
made by laying rock on top of geotextile fabric. The fabric holds
soil and the rock prevents the water from moving the fabric. Before
the side-water inlets, I was slowly giving up my topsoil and sending
it downstream, I now keep that precious dirt at home. That same water
ends up traveling through Crookston, Grand Forks and eventually to
Winnipeg, Manitoba. With side-water inlets, the many towns that
depend on river water for drinking water do not have to screen my
dirt, or fertilizer run-off, from their drinking water.

The recent federal government shutdown brought a misunderstanding to
light; many people believe their local Soil and Water Conservation
District is a federal entity and had closed its doors during the
shutdown. SWCD’s are actually a subdivision of state government. A
request was made in 1948 by Pennington County landowners to create
the SWCD. Our daily operation is funded by county, state and
self-generated dollars. This money is used to
help to educate all ages in how better to maintain, or improve water
quality and prevent the erosion of land. The Natural Resources
Conservation Service is a federal government entity and we share
office space with them so confusion is understandable. The confusion
is also a compliment as it acknowledges how well these two agencies
work together. Each agency has its own rules and mission statement
yet they complement each other’s work. They also improve our quality
of life through clean water and soil, attractive waterways and proven
methods to greater conservation.

The Soil and Water Conservation district is also the spark plug to
many conservation projects funded by grants in that the district
helps landowners locate funds which can be used for soil and water
conservation projects. We are also the “tree people.” We are the
agency where you go to purchase trees and even have them planted in
some cases. Erosion of soil is most likely to happen in new
construction as roads and waterways are typically paired together.
The SWCD sometimes gets involved in road and ditch construction by
controlling entry and exit points of water, A good example of this
assistance would be the county road 64 project just north of Thief
River Falls. Sometimes preventing erosion means planting grass, other
times it is careful placement of culverts while sometimes it means
buttressing areas where water travels with plain old rock.

Soil needs water to be productive but too much water washes the soil
into ditches or rivers where it cannot be used. Water needs to be
clear and free of soil and fertilizer so we can drink it. Soil and
water are good partners; they just need some rules by which to guide
their partnership.

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