Whitewater Watershed Part of First Trial Program

Posted at: 06/11/2013 6:46 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Some big changes are coming for some Minnesota farmers, and the state's water quality. It's a first-in-the-nation certification program, that is being piloted at four rivers in the state.

"The fact that we are the first state in the nation  that will take part in this agricultural water certification program...that reflects our leadership as environmental stewards," said Senator Al Franken.

Rivers in Minnesota could soon become a whole lot cleaner. It's called the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program.

"Farmers will improve the state's water quality," said Franken.    

Basically, the program will help farmers analyze their land-use, and water quality issues, and then help find ways to solve them.

"It's a pilot program, so it's going to be a learning process," said Daryl Buck, with the Winona Soil and Conversation.

The Whitewater River Watershed is one of the areas of interest.

"The Whitewater River Watershed consists of 250,000 acres in parts of Olmsted, Wabasha, and Winona counties," said Governor Mark Dayton.

Buck says he is happy the Whitewater River gets to be a part of such a groundbreaking new program.

"It's exciting. It's good to be able to offer some kind of a program to these land owners, to give them a little bit of a peace of mind that they are doing a good job," said Buck.

Local officials will soon start recruiting farmers to take part in the program. If all goes well, the hope is that this program will only get bigger in the future.

"I look forward to having the opportunity to expand this program to include the others to follow this pioneering example that you four are going to set," said Dayton.

"In the long run, it's going to be helpful for all the watersheds and all the farmers in the county and in the state really. Hopefully it will be expanding beyond that too," said Buck.

The program will cost about $9.5 million. $3 million of that will come from the State Legacy funds, which was approved by the legislature last year. The remaining $6.5 million will be federally funded.