Shell Rock River + Winnebago River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan

Minnesota | Water


With goals to restore impaired waters and habitat, reduce erosion, improve soil health, reduce impacts from flooding, protect high-quality habitat, and protect groundwater quality, the Shell Rock River-Winnebago River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan provides a unifying strategy for water management in the Shell Rock River and Winnebago River watersheds. Leveraging ISG's water quality and planning strengths, the team lead all services from facilitation and engineering to graphic design and technical writing to deliver an impactful plan that reflects the values of the watershed partnership.


Covering 317 square miles of primarily agricultural land that has been extensively drained, Shell Rock River and Winnebago River are located in south-central Minnesota. Building off of significant knowledge of the watersheds due to previously completing a water quality trading project for the Shell Rock River Watershed District and a Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) study through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) for Fountain Lake and other water bodies within the planning area, the project team developed a framework that merged data and analytical modeling outcomes with a flexible application strategy to target areas that would provide the greatest benefit to the partnership’s priority resources.


Planning Process + Engagement Strategies

ISG maximized technology during the pandemic to pivot to virtual engagement, keeping the process moving forward. Smaller resource-based sub-committees (e.g., groundwater, surface water, habitat, outreach/education), reported out findings, while the larger group reviewed and provided feedback, resulting in a meaningful and efficient engagement process.

Modeling + Technical Analysis

To identify and prioritize areas for implementation, ISG team member, Paul Marston, and a lead modeler from RESPEC, created an innovative Best Management Practice (BMP) targeting tool that combined the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) tool with the Hydrological Simulation Program-Fortran (HSPF) watershed model to identify high pollutant loading areas at a higher resolution. This tool was developed on behalf of the MPCA to evaluate pollutant loading within the Shell Rock River watershed.

During the watershed planning process, this BMP targeting tool allowed for a highly-detailed heat map of the entire planning area, highlighting the most cost-effective areas for implementing practices to reduce pollutants for the watershed’s priority resources. The final heat maps and MPCA-funded virtual training served as key educational components to help stakeholders understand how the tool was used to pinpoint priority implementation areas.

Plan Creation, Approval, and Implementation

ISG’s in-house technical writing and graphic design professionals created an easy to read, graphically rich plan, distilling technical information into clear language that stakeholders could understand and put into action. The plan was approved by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources Southern Regional Committee board and is anticipated to be implemented by the local partnership starting in 2023. ISG is currently working with partners on high priority projects identified in the plan.

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