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Establishing roots

Pillager High School students Joseph Herman (left) and Dezmond Berndt plant a tr

It began when a Motley neighbor identified massive erosion along Highway 10 in Motley.

The end result was a collaboration of numerous individuals and agencies to create a buffer of vegetation to stabilize the banks of the Long Prairie River as it flows through the Morrison County city.

It started with a neighbor who called a former county commissioner Tom Wenzel, who in turn called Helen McLennan, district manager of the Morrison Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD.) The Todd County Soil and Water Conservation District had a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) grant for restoration and protection projects for the Long Prairie River watershed, which has been identified as impaired water.

The agencies agreed to fund a portion and due to much of the area also being in the highway right-of-way, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) agreed to fund the rest. The private property belongs to the Lakewood Health System, but it was certainly willing to have the area repaired and stabilized. The health system also agreed to keep the plants watered this summer and next to assure the best possible survival.

Due to federal funding, the Natural Resource Conservation Service engineers from the Fergus Falls area office — Scott Smith and Eric Larson — designed the river barbs and armored part of the project. It required reshaping the slope back to stabilize it. Then five river barbs were strategically placed at angles to divert the water towards the middle of the channel and to the west side, which is vacant wetland so it would not be as much of a concern if it moves some of the erosion to the other side. That part of the project was completed in early November of 2012 and performed by contractor Henry Becker of Long Prairie. The project called for 728 cubic yards of rock and 550 square yards of geotextile fabric underneath.

The area above the rock was seeded and covered with a net to hold during the winter months.

The funding for phase one came from a Todd SWCD 319 grant of $40,270 and MnDOT contributed $35,000.

For phase two, the Minnesota Forest Resource Council (MFRC) and Morrison County SWCD wanted assistance in finding some projects for Pillager and Staples-Motley school districts. A donation from the Minnesota Fishing Museum to do the riparian planting with the help of the students who planted the riparian buffer. The Minnesota Fishing Museum’s $5,000 went for the plant materials.

On Monday, nearly 1,000 trees and shrubs were planted by 70 students from Pillager and Staples-Motley schools, which will receive MFRC funds for planting and transportation.

The teachers were Kerry Lindgren from Staples-Motley and Karl Kaufmann and Ryan Saulsbury from Pillager. Two similar projects closer to Little Falls were completed with Doug Ploof, a high school teacher.

“It’s really rewarding for the students to watch these projects as years go by and be able to tell of their part in it,” McLennan said.

A list of partners includes: Morrison SWCD, Lance Chisholm and Alan Ringwelski (district technicians); Todd SWCD, Amy Warnberg and Greg Ostrowski (319 grant administration and technical adviser); Natural Resource Conservation Service engineers out of Fergus Falls, Scott Smith, Eric Larson and Steve Girard, Natural Resources Conservation Service technician; MnDOT engineer Bob Nibbe and John McNamara, engineering technician; Minnesota Fishing Museum, Jim Lilienthal, representative; Minnesota Forest Resource Council, Lindbergh Ekola, executive director; Department of Natural Resources Fisheries and Division of Waters and Ecological Services, permitting authority and technical advisers Tim Crocker and Eric Altena; Army Corps of Engineers, permit authority, Leo Grabowski, Brainerd field office; and Lakewood Health System, Tim Rice, president.

Steve Kohls
I started my career in photography after graduation from Moorhead State College with photography positions at the Daily News in Wahpeton, ND. , Country Echo in Pequot Lakes, The Journal in New Ulm and settling at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1975. I have been teaching fine art black and white and color photography at Central Lakes College for the past 15 years. Currently I have been teaching Underwater Photography for Central Lakes College and the Minnesota School of Diving for the past 7 years. From May to November you can find me at the Mineland Recreation Area either scuba diving and photographing the fish or enjoying the beauty of our area’s newest lakes.
(218) 855-5870