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Local Dairy Farmer Works Toward Water Quality

December 2, 2016

 

When Mark Klehr was 19, he began farming on his father’s dairy near Belle Plaine.  When his father retired, Mark took over.  Throughout his farming career, Mark has implemented multiple conservation practices.  He is an excellent example of a farmer who is continually working towards improving water quality on his farm.  He has grass buffers along all streams that run through his farm.  These buffers filter sediment and nutrients out of runoff from his fields before it enters the steam. He also constructed a manure containment system designed specifically for his sandy soils. This system prevents waste from his dairy animals from seeping through the soil and contaminating the ground water. It also allows Mark to apply manure in his fields when there is least amount of risk for runoff. Mark worked with the Scott Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) on both of these projects.  He also worked with the SWCD on a stream bank stabilization project beginning in 2004.

 

There is a section of steam about a half a mile in length that runs through the Klehr Dairy farm.  In 2004, Mark began to notice that the banks of the stream were eroding.  He decided it was time to take action after Mark’s father nearly drove off the edge of the bank.  High water from a recent storm had caused so much erosion that the bank of the stream was cutting into the edge of the field.  Not only was the erosion adding sediment to the water, it was cutting into their profits by eliminating farmable land.

 

Mark and his father approached the SWCD in 2004 to see what they could do to stabilize the banks of the steam.  Part of the reason for the erosion was that the stream flowed down too steep of a slope, causing the water to pick up speed as it went, eating away at the banks and adding sediment to the water.  A series of five weirs were installed as part of the bank stabilization process.  This allowed the stream to have a much shallower slope, with the water “stair-stepping” down at each weir.  The stream flows north and continues into the Minnesota River, so stabilizing the banks of this stream meant less sediment flowing into the Minnesota River.  This stabilization project was working as designed until the 2014 flood.

 

Like many residents of Scott County, Mark found himself with flood damage after the flooding in 2014.  Crops were flooded out in the low areas of the farm, debris remained in the fields after the water receded, and the stream bank stabilization project was in need of repair.  During the heavy rains and high water, damage was done to some of the weirs and much of the stream was plugged up with sediment.  The SWCD received funds from the Disaster Relief Assistance Program to help landowners fix the damage that the flood had caused.  One landowner that received assistance from this program was Mark Klehr.

 

Willie Peters, Resource Conservationist with the Scott SWCD, had worked with Mark on the project in 2004, and worked with Mark again after the flood to get the stream bank stabilized once more.  One weir was completely replaced and loads of sediment were removed to get the stream back to its shallow slope.  The final repairs to the project were completed this September, and now the project is working properly again.  If Mark had not come back in after the damage in 2014 to fix the project, the erosion problem that he had worked hard to fix would have come right back.

 

With the h