South Heron Lake - Judicial Ditch No. 3

Minnesota | Agriculture


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 achieiving water quality goals.


Considerable community engagement and funding assistance efforts were needed to improve water quality in the Heron Lake watershed.


ISG’s partnership with HLWD along with ongoing stakeholder collaboration and grant application support has leveraged the District’s drainage dollars as matching funds to obtain $1.4 million of outside funding. The 472-square-mile Heron Lake watershed is located within portions of Nobles, Jackson, Murray, and Cottonwood Counties in southwestern Minnesota. ISG partners with the HLWD, landowners and other local stakeholders to address the region’s water quality concerns, while also working to improve flood storage capacity. Implementation of several practices are aimed at addressing South Heron Lake’s (SHL) phosphorous impairment. ISG performed a feasibility study of best management practices throughout the watershed and then developed a Multipurpose Drainage Management (MDM) Plan.

Grant + Funding Assistance

HLWD was awarded a 2020 grant of $43,000 to implement the MDM plan to reduce phosphorus entering South Heron Lake, which does not meet state water quality standards. Efforts are focused on County Ditch 3 (CD3) and Judicial Ditches (JD) 14 and 3. Projects include over two dozen alternative side inlets (ASI) 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 application process that resulted in $250,625 in funding through an 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 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 continues to work with rural landowners throughout each project to address their drainage needs in a sustainable way, while keeping long-term water quality solutions for the watershed at the forefront.

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