Alternatives to feedlot pollutants in area lakes

This article submitted by Stephanie Everson on 08/05/97.

Lakes Koronis and Rice have been a significant part of their communities history, providing many lasting memories for those who have found enjoyment from the waters of the two lakes, either through recreational activities such as fishing or water sports, or simple relaxation on the shores.

With the large role the two lakes play in the Paynesville area, it would be a reasonable assumption that area residents don't set out to pollute either lake, but because of misinformation and lack of practical and available alternatives, many of those who would rather protect the lakes end up contributing to their demise.

The Rice/Koronis Clean Water Partnership is a locally sponsored voluntary program. Their intent is to improve and protect the water quality of the two area lakes by reducing the impact of various pollution sources. After a comprehensive study of nutrient sources and declining water quality in the North Fork Crow River Watershed, they began the implementation phase of their project in 1996.

The implementation phase affected various management practices on area lands, including septic system upgrades, crop land protection, and feed lot run-off and lake shore erosion control, in an effort to reduce nutrient loading in the lakes by 25 percent within a three to five-year time period.

Major nonpoint pollutants
Pollution carried by run-off is referred to as nonpoint source pollution. Although some livestock producers feel the run-off from their feed lot wouldn't be noticed, when combined with the many operations in the area, livestock waste can become one of the largest contributors to nonpoint pollution.

In a recent study of the North Fork Crow River Watershed District, 10 out of 29 feed lots within the immediate watershed may have been contributing excessive concentrations of phosphorus, sediment, and chemical oxygen demand to Lake Koronis.

The major nonpoint source pollutants regarding agriculture are sediments, water damaging nutrients, pesticides, bacteria, and oxygen-demanding substances. Sediment from fields, ditches, and stream banks, which may also carry nutrients and heavy metals, make water turbid and damage fish and aquatic plant habitat.

Nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, are carried in animal waste and not only cause excessive algae and weed growth in lakes, but high concentrations of nitrates in drinking water can pose a very real health risk to infants.

Pesticides and other agricultural chemicals can wash off crops and fields into area lakes and streams, often causing toxic reactions to fish and other aquatic life. Some agricultural chemicals also present a public heath problem if they reach drinking water.

Bacteria run-off or seepage from feed lots can carry coliform bacteria into surface and ground water, a problem if in drinking water or body contact.

Oxygen demanding substances such as manure, sewage, crop residue, and other decaying organic material can use enough oxygen to deprive and affect fish populations.

Nonpoint prevention
According to a publication series entitled "Shoreland Best Management Practices," published by the Minnesota Extension Service, there are several practical ways to prevent these types of pollutants. Called "Best Management Practices (BMP)," they are measures that can be taken to protect water quality, and ultimately, the life of the lakes.

Cropped land erosion control cannot only preserve local waters, but also enhance an agricultural operation. These include mulch tillage, no-till and ridge till systems, contouring and grass field borders, and strip cropping. Crop rotations and seeding fragile and drainage areas with grass can also greatly reduce sediments.

Diversions, a permanently vegetated ridge constructed at the base of a slope, can effectively redirect run-off away from an animal barnyard.

Manure containment structures allow for the build up of manure, and channel liquid manure to a single outlet where it can either be stored and used to fertilize fields, or can be treated by a grass filter strip.

Grass filter strips are permanent grass sod that filter nutrients from the manure containment area, which can be enhanced by a buffer strip between a grass filter strip and the stream.

Buffer strips along lakes and streams, which consist of trees, can remove excess nutrients. The buffer strip stabilizes soil, traps nutrients by filtering the run-off, and provides shade and cools the water, improving aquatic habitat.

Stream crossings make a low-flow gravel crossing for animals to reach pasture on the opposite side of a stream through the use of fencing. Culverts and bridges are sometimes needed and can be built to allow machinery to cross.

Pasturing livestock in a rotational grazing method can provide better forage and improve sod and soil coverage between grazing cycles, as well as reduce erosion.

Unusable land conversion can provide benefits both financially and environmentally by converting highly erodable and marginal fields into various uses. Possibilities include intercropping trees and pasture, planting nut trees or timber, planting Christmas trees, or using native and imported species for wildlife habitat.

Fuel, fertilizer, and pesticides can contaminate a large volume of water, even if only a small amount. Storage options include locating fuel tanks away from other buildings and water, dike areas around above ground tanks to contain possible spills, and properly dispose of outdated unused chemicals.

Silage and haylage, if improperly contained, can contaminate ground and surface water. Some BMPs that could minimize this risk include: storing silage away from water sources, provide impermeable surface soil around the storage, install a seepage collection system, divert clean water away from the area, and adequately cover the silage.

Just one of these measures can have a positive affect on lakes Koronis and Rice, and the streams that feed them, and engineering and other professional assistance is available to property owners free of charge through the Clean Water Partnership.

For those in need of assistance, three percent loans, as well as cost sharing, are available to those who wish to make these types of improvements on their land. For information on various water quality improvement measures, contact Patrick Corrigan at the Land Care Environmental Services in Sauk Rapids, or Allan Kuseske at the office of the North Fork Crow River Watershed District in Brooten. Dale and Lora Lorenz and Rich and Kathy Olmscheid, shoreland volunteers, also have informational resources available to anyone who desires information on other lake shore Best Management Practices.

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