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Spring Creek watershed project going well

Work to build a watershed along Spring Creek is still on schedule and going well.

The Spring Creek watershed project, which began in July, is a joint project between Dunn and Mercer County Soil conservation districts to improve the riparian area and water quality along Spring Creek from Lake Ilo to Beulah, said Jonathan Ficek, district technician for Dunn County Soil Conservation District.

Lake Ilo is on the east side of Killdeer, just west of Dunn Center.

The water in Spring Creek is meant for recreational use, aquatic life, irrigation and stock water, said Mike Ell, environmental scientist for the North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Water Quality.

Although it meets the standards for drinking water, the water would have to be treated before human consumption, Ell said.

"We consider the water impaired in regard to its uses due to excessive bacterial counts and poor riparian condition, that is why the Soil Conservation is working to build the watershed, Ell said.

They hope that after these projects are in place the water quality will improve, Ell said.

Between 500 and 600 landowners and producers within Spring Creek have been invited to partake in the project, said Kasha Hansen, watershed coordinator for the Mercer County Soil Conservation District.

"Right now we have seven contracts signed, the projects we are currently working on are tree planting, cross fencing, and four pipelines and water tanks," Hansen said.

"Its hard to say what the Spring Creek watershed project will cost because each landowner and producer has a different project that they are working on and we are still open to receiving applications," Hansen said.

"I can tell you we have a budget of $210,000 to spend before Nov. 30, 2011," Hansen said.

The project is being funded by the Department of Health, which receives its funding through the Environmental Protection Agency, according the project brochure.

The Department of Health gave the Soil Conservation District $130,000 from the EPA, the rest of the funding is coming from in kind money, the Dunn County Water Resource Board, the Mercer County Water Resource Board, or the producers, Hansen said.

The Soil Conservation District is also waiting to hear back on the project proposal it presented in September.

The Soil Conservation Districts wish to continue the Spring Creek watershed project.

"We hope to get funding for five more years, we will know this winter if our request was approved," Hansen said.

The money will be used to implement conservation practices, said Jolyn Wasem, district clerk and treasurer for Dunn County Soil Conservation District.

"One nice thing about the project is that it offers cost share to landowners who want to implement these conservation practices," Wasem said.

Projects eligible for cost share include wind break establishment, cross fencing, livestock watering systems, cover crops, and anything else that would benefit the creek itself, Ficek said.

The Soil Conservation districts decided to do the project now as a proactive measure.

"One day it may be mandatory to put in these projects, so it's best for people to try and put some in now while they have the opportunity for financial assistance," Hansen said.

The Soil Conservation District plans to achieve its goal of attaining better water quality and repairing the riparian areas by applying buffer strips between the crop and riparian area, applying grazing rotations, manage feeding areas, and reducing livestock's access to the riparian area according to its brochure on the project.

Riparian areas are the land between crop or pasture land and the water Hansen said.

Proper riparian areas reduce erosion, prevent flooding, provide cover for wildlife, improve water quality Hansen said.

We hope to plant some filter strip areas along the edge of crops like native grasses or trees, Hansen said.

Planting trees can provide cover for livestock, control snow, provide stream bank stability, and promote healthy riparian areas and streams according to the brochure.

"We are having some practices put in for pipelines and water tanks," Hansen said.

Applying best management practices such as pipelines and tanks provides freshwater for livestock and pulls them away from the creek and riparian areas, according to the brochure.