Elk River Watershed discussed at Sherburne County Association of Townships

The Sherburne County Association of Townships met for a quarterly meeting at the Baldwin Town Hall on Wednesday, April 17.

Elk River Watershed Association
Water resource specialist Tiffany Determan presented a report about the Elk River Watershed Association’s (ERWA) water improvement efforts. This joint powers board operates with grant money from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Clean Water Fund.
Determan pointed out the work that can be accomplished in partnership with the townships. For example, they were able to clean up Little Elk Lake in Baldwin Township for $12,862. The grant covers 75 percent of the total cost of the project. In Livonia Township, the ERWA helped with a $49,000 watershed project. Again, 75 percent of the total costs were covered by the grant.
One of the jobs of the ERWA is to evaluate the health of the rivers and lakes in the area. They want to keep the healthy waters healthy while preventing the degradation of the less healthy lakes, Determan said.
Sherburne County is consistently one of the fastest growing counties in Minnesota, she said. This means a potential impact on land quality. “We want to make sure our resources are protected.”

Weed control
Sherburne County agricultural inspector Marc Schnieder informed the township supervisors of their role as local weed inspectors. He encouraged each township to designate a supervisor to be his contact person for the township. According to Minnesota statute 18.80-18.81, local weed inspectors (township supervisors) are supposed to examine all land, including highways, roads, alleys and public ground in their jurisdiction, for noxious weeds and see that the control or eradication of the weeds is carried out.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture defines noxious weeds as those plants that have the potential or are known to be detrimental to human or animal health, the environment, public roads, crops, livestock or other property. Noxious weeds, Schnieder said, dominate their ecosystem and take over in their environment.
For example, wild parsnip has been identified at County Roads 19 and 9 in Baldwin Township. This particular plant is dangerous because contact with the plant or sap can cause blisters and severe burns.
Control of noxious weeds can be done in any combination of three ways: mechanical, chemical and biological controls. Mechanical management includes cutting, mowing or prescribed fire. Chemical controls are administered by the Department of Agriculture and include various types of applications of herbicides. Biological controls refers to the use of bringing in of specific types of bugs that are known to feed on and destroy that particular noxious weed. For example, certain types of beetles and weevils have been effective in controlling purple loosestrife in Minnesota.

Gopher bounties
The township officials discussed whether the gopher bounty was too high. Currently, the townships offer a bounty of $2 per gopher. The county reimburses the townships 75 cents per gopher.
Baldwin Supervisor Kimberly Good, who brought up the issue, suggested that townships merely match what the county will pay and offer residents only $1.50 per gopher. The officials did not come to a conclusion on the gopher bounty issue.

Dust control
Township officials talked about calcium and magnesium chloride applications for dust control on gravel roads. Roger Nelson, of Blue Hill Township, said his township used calcium chloride and was satisfied with the results.
“You do a good job setting up the base, and then it works really well,” he said.

Cleanup day
There was some confusion as to whether townships could turn away residents of other townships in Sherburne County for cleanup day. Sherburne County reimburses townships for at least some of the costs incurred on cleanup day. Some association members said that county residents should be able to utilize any cleanup day event in the county and not be limited to the township of residence. A conclusion was not reached at this meeting.