Moving and shaking the earth

The Root River Soil and Water Conservation District is currently overseeing a project on the Mike Staggemeyer property that will filter runoff for over 1,000 acres of land. ~ Emily Bialkowski/The Caledonia Argus

The Root River Soil and Water Conservation District is currently overseeing a project on the Mike Staggemeyer property that will filter runoff for over 1,000 acres of land.
~ Emily Bialkowski/The Caledonia Argus

By Emily Bialkowski
Caledonia Argus

Employees of the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District quietly go about their work performing tasks that don’t necessarily have an immediate, observable outcome. They work to protect the natural resources – such as clean water and crop-sustaining soil – in Houston County.

It’s not glamorous, but it’s important; the evidence of which came to light after the 2007-08 floods when farmland was swept down river destroying crops and depositing debris on land below.

“The memories are short for a lot of people for how bad it was and what needs to take place to slow down some of that runoff,” said Ron Meiners, district manager.

“It’s devastating and costly  damage. You can’t speak enough about it,” he added.

Contributing to the district’s unobtrusive  existence is the fact that it often takes years to solidify funding for projects.

Just this month, for example, a $145,000 project is taking place on the Mike Staggemeyer property in Winnebago Valley to prevent future flooding and to slow down soil erosion.

This particular project will treat over a thousand acres of drainage and includes an earthen damn. The structure will hold up runoff, much like a retaining pond, and back the water up for 24 to 48 hours allowing nature to work its sieve. The intent is to prevent the damage caused by sizeable downpours and not the everyday two-inch rainfall event.

“There’s a lot of cost share dollar assistance to put these things in place. It was a long permitting process; it was a lot of hoops to jump through to get to this point,” Meiners said.

The Root River Soil and Water Conservation District helps coordinate funding efforts between the state, county, Nature Conservancy, clean water grants, the federal government, contribution agreements, the Department of Natural Resources and a whole list of  other entities.

“It’s complicated for anyone to sort out inside the agency let alone the public,” Meiners admitted.

“I want to emphasize none of this would be possible without willing landowners and local government.”

Other projects – often named after the landowner – are taking place at the Pat Burke site, the DNR state land site and the Bob Koch site.

“With everything we do there we are struggling to get information out to residents in Houston County about the importance of resource protection,” Meiners said.

He wants people to know there is follow-up taking place from the flood, and he said he hopes to continue identifying more critical areas for flood control structures and best management practices, such as grass waterways or contour strips, among many other options.

Contact Emily Bialkowski at emily.bialkowski@ecm-inc.com

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