Wells, Watersheds, and Shelterbelts: Board Tours Southeast Region of District

Wells, Watersheds, and Shelterbelts: Board Tours Southeast Region of District

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

From a proposed recreation area near Milligan to a dam renovation in Friend, nine members of the board of directors of the Upper Big Blue Natural Resources District toured the southeast portion of the district to explore NRD projects on Friday, September 6.

Board member Merlin Volkmer and NRD staff member Nancy Brisk look at a multimeter tool used in water sampling at monitoring wells near Fairmont.

The day began by viewing a potential dam site for future consideration near McCool. The next stop was a demonstration of sampling of monitoring wells located at the former Fairmont Airfield. The facility in Fillmore County was constructed in 1942 as an Army training airfield. No longer in service as a military facility, the area is now privately farmed and rows of corn line the cracked runways. The monitoring wells at the location are tested regularly for nitrates and other contaminants. These wells are part of a network of 20 spread across 8 sites in the district which are routinely sampled to track water quality trends over time. The samples vary in depth, allowing for data collection from shallow, medium, and deep well sites to capture a more accurate picture of the health of the district’s groundwater. The Upper Big Blue NRD has been tracking this data consistently since 1997 to look at non-point source contamination in the groundwater supply.

The morning continued with a stop a mile northwest of Milligan at the property of Dwaine Kubicek. The Upper Big Blue NRD is exploring the possibility of purchasing some of Kubicek’s land and improving it for use as a public recreation area. Called Cedar View, the recreation area would feature boating and fishing in the 25-acre pond as well as other amenities. The board of directors is still in the preliminary stages of evaluating the property.

After lunch at Charlie’s Pub in Milligan, the tour continued with a drained dam site near Friend. The Johnson Creek 46 dam is being repaired using Snap-Tite slip lining, a method that may be used at other NRD dam sites in the future. The process involves lining the existing corrugated metal pipes with a high-density polyethylene pipe and filing the space between the old and new pipes with grout for a water-tight, sturdily reinforced structure.

Dwaine Kubicek talks with members of the NRD board of directors at a proposed recreation site near Milligan.
Dorchester was the next stop on the tour, including a watershed area with aging dams originally constructed by the federal government that are now the responsibility of the NRD. At a nearby location, the directors viewed a mature shelterbelt planted by the NRD at a private residence more than 20 years ago. Tree plantings like this one have many benefits for farmsteads, including increasing livestock survival, increasing crop production, and improving field moisture. The Dorchester site also featured a domestic well that is regularly sampled by NRD staff. It is one of a network of 250 domestic wells across the district that is sampled every one-to-three years to track water quality.

The tour concluded with a stop at Smith Creek Recreation Area near Utica. Constructed in 1983, the Smith Creek dam and reservoir were designed to provide aquifer recharge and recreational opportunities. The site features tent camping, fishing, boating, waterfowl hunting, and picnic tables, and is heavily used in the summer months.

Board members will meet next on Thursday, September 12, for water, projects and executive committees. The full board will meet on Thursday, September 19 for a public hearing for tax request.