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Now is the time for action

Improved water quality could mean getting our lake back

While Gov. Mark Dayton will no longer press landowners to maintain a vegetative strip between farm fields and private roadside ditches, we think it’s a great idea to implement the practice anyway.
Buffers of grasses, trees or shrubs stop harmful nutrients from washing off farm fields, entering waterways that empty into road ditches. Vegetative buffer strips soak up excessive phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment as water heads to our lakes, streams and rivers or recharges our shallow aquifers.
Last Tuesday, Feb. 9, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invited local residents to voice their opinions on replacing Mound Lake at the Blue Mounds State Park north of Luverne.
These officials have spent months studying the Mounds area and are open to replacing the popular summer recreation area. Through their environmental studies, however, an important question surfaced: Why reconstruct a public swimming area when the water quality could be so contaminated that it is unsafe for people to be in the water?
We need to get on top of our water quality problems before they become worse.
For years the state park has been searching for the source of bacterial contaminants in its drinking water system. Officials have tested the pipes, dug a deeper well and flushed the water system repeatedly with bleach. Yet, the bacteria reappear.
Two years ago the Environmental Working Group gave Rock County a failing grade, the only county in the state to receive an “F” for its lack of protective vegetative strips.
Do we want to stay at the bottom of this list?
We can’t have a recreational lake again if we’re satisfied to stay in last place.
Our local land management officials have mapped the land areas above Mound Lake and have contacted landowners about measures they can implement in those sensitive land areas.
We know the land in the area above Blue Mounds State Park is valuable and so are the areas surrounding our ditches, waterways, streams and rivers. But it’s our water quality at stake. It’s time we listened to our local experts and put their recommendations into place.
Since Gov. Dayton has backed off his buffer legislation for private ditches, let’s prove to him that we can take action and implement measures to improve water quality on our own.
We need to re-evaluate our cropping inputs and tillage methods. It’s time for landowners to step up and look at how their land is being used.
Are buffers adequately keeping soil in place and acting as efficient water filters?
If the answer is no to these questions, then it is time to ask ourselves what can be done to incentivize the replacement of those precious buffer strips.
As Gov. Dayton has said, “It is private effluent that affects public water.”
Let’s prove to him Rock County is more than capable of implementing measures to improve our water quality and bring a recreation lake back to our county.

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