South Heron Lake - Judicial Ditch No. 3

Minnesota | Water


ISG continues its partnership with the Heron Lake Watershed District (HLWD) on multiple projects, collaborating with landowners and stakeholders to maximize outside funding while making meaningful progress in achieving water quality goals.


Considerable community engagement and funding assistance efforts were needed to improve water quality in the 472-square-mile Heron Lake watershed, located within portions of Nobles, Jackson, Murray, and Cottonwood Counties in southwestern Minnesota.


ISG partnered with HLWD, landowners, and other local stakeholders to address the region’s water quality concerns, while also working to improve flood storage capacity. Currently in the design phase, implementation of several practices aims to address South Heron Lake’s phosphorous impairment and ensure adequate storage in the system. Water resource experts performed a feasibility study of best management practices throughout the watershed and developed a Multipurpose Drainage Management (MDM) Plan.

Identifying relevant grant support, ISG partnered with HLWD and other stakeholders to collaborate and leverage the District’s drainage dollars. Matching funds increased outside support for the projects totaling $1.4 million.

Grant + Funding Assistance

HLWD was awarded a 2020 grant of $43,000 to implement the MDM plan to reduce phosphorus entering South Heron Lake (SHL) as it did not meet state water quality standards. The efforts focused on County Ditch 3 (CD3) and Judicial Ditches (JD) 14 and 3. Projects included over two dozen alternative side inlets and a 4.2-acre wetland on JD3, providing an annual phosphorus load reduction of 2,258 pounds, which equates to a 6.1 percent total pollution reduction for the SHL watershed.

ISG also supported the grant application process that resulted in $250,625 in funding through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 319 grant to implement two wetland restorations, several side inlets, and streambank restoration at an inlet to SHL that was heavily eroded; all aimed at improving water quality and reducing phosphorus in SHL and the larger West Fork Des Moines River watershed.

Another ISG supported grant application resulted in $50,106 in funding through a Department of Natural Resources Conservation Partners grant to complete a 62-acre wetland enhancement project in the Toe Wildlife Management Area to the southeast of SHL.

HLWD was awarded a $61,500 MDM grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) to support this portion of the SHL Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Implementation Plan from the Clean Water Fund. HLWD partnered with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Jackson County Soil and Watershed Conservation District to develop and fund the project, which included 11 side inlets and a 10-acre wetland restoration with an additional $126,500 in matching funds. Since landowners are responsible for the repair cost portion of projects, grant funding is utilized to pay for the improvement-related costs that are targeted on water quality improvements.

A $1 million Small Watershed grant was also awarded by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for restoration and protection efforts focused on protecting SHL from further degradation using planning tools to determine cost-effective solutions to reduce nutrients and sediment entering the lake, while also reducing the impacts of flooding.

Public Engagement

ISG hosts regular landowner meetings to inform property owners of improvement plans and gather feedback. Due to consistent and clear communication strategies, the water resource team has gained support for proposed improvements and many landowners have volunteered to invest in water storage, understanding the long-term benefits.

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