Kickapoo River Watershed Project

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This map shows the area of the Kickapoo River Watershed Project. (Map courtesy of NRCS)

 

Early sign-up urged for Kickapoo River Watershed Project

By Ted Pennekamp

 

Crawford County and area landowners can once again sign up for stream restoration work as part of the $5.3 million Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). The $5.3 million was made available for the Kickapoo River Watershed Project, and the latest deadline to sign up for stream restoration projects in 2018 is May 18. The Kickapoo River Watershed Project involves several streams in Crawford, Vernon and Monroe counties. 

“It’s a good deal,” said Karyl Fritsche, district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Fritsche noted that the Kickapoo River Watershed Project is in the third of three years and there is potentially $2.1 million available for Crawford County in 2018. 

The funding is available through the NRCS, which is part of the United States Department of Agriculture. Fritsche said that the NRCS works with about 25 partners on the stream restoration projects. Some of the more well known partners include the Wisconsin DNR, Trout Unlimited, University of Wisconsin Extension, Southwest Badger RC&D, the Crawford County Land Conservation Department and the Valley Stewardship Network.

The funding for any stream restoration project is 75 percent funded through the NRCS and its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and 25 percent by the landowner. Fritsche said that the NRCS does the engineering and planning and the landowner hires the contractor to do the work.

The restoration projects are for streams running through cropland or pasture and are designed to reduce phosphorus runoff and erosion. Fritsche said the focus is on modifying grazing practices along steam banks and installing rip-rap. Conservation practices undertaken by landowners and producers will serve to avoid, control and trap nutrient runoff, prevent erosion and provide essential wildlife habitat.

Citizen water quality monitoring from Valley Stewardship Network volunteers will provide data to support load-reduction goals.

The project will cover the following watersheds within the Kickapoo River Watershed. Crawford County: Halls Branch, Caswell Hollow-Kickapoo River, Trout Creek-Kickapoo River, and Tainter Creek.

Vernon County: Tainter Creek, Goose Creek-Kickapoo River, West Fork-Kickapoo River, Otter Creek, Weister Creek, Plum Run-Kickapoo River, and Knapp Creek-West Fork Kickapoo River. 

Monroe County: Moore Creek and Sleighton Creek-Kickapoo River.

Fritsche said landowners should call as soon as possible if they are interested in addressing any problems they may have with nutrient and sediment losses from cropland and degraded pastures.

Along with prescribed grazing and stream bank stabilization, projects may also include other conservation practices such as cover crops, prairie restoration, invasive species control, manure storage, contour buffer strips, filter strips, and many others.

The projects help the farmers to sustain agricultural profitability, and also improves the water quality for trout and other wildlife and helps to restore wetlands. The projects also enhance soil health, which results in higher soil organic matter, increased infiltration and water-holding capacity and nutrient cycling. 

Since MRBI’s start in 2009, NRCS has worked with more than 600 partners and 5,000 farmers to make conservation improvements on more than 1 million acres in the region. Through these partnerships, the MRBI more than quadrupled the number of contracts addressing water quality concerns in targeted project areas. 

For more information or to sign up for the project, interested Crawford County landowners can contact Fritsche at (608) 326-7179 extension 109 or by email at karyl.fritsche@wi.usda.gov. Vernon County can be contacted at (608) 637-2183. Monroe County can be contacted at (608) 269-8136.

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