Pat Eichten grew up on the family farm and has continued the family’s farming tradition.  He’s seen the ups and downs of the seasons and the coming and goings of methods and machinery.  One thing that had not changed since Pat’s childhood was the existence of a gully running from the back of the barn, through the field, and into the wetland.
“Dad used to have to work around that every year.  Now I have to do the same thing.  Sometimes it wasn’t too bad and we could get through it, but sometimes it was too deep.”  Pat’s talking about the perennial erosion that was washing away valuable topsoil from the field and dropping into the nearby wetland.  Soil particles carry with them phosphorus; in the wetland or other surface waters, phosphorus can reach levels that are too high and result in excessive algal and plant growth.  As the plants decompose, they use up all the oxygen and can cause anaerobic conditions, which result in fish kills.
“When Craig (Mell of the Chisago Soil & Water Conservation District) called me, I knew it was a good deal.  It was a win-win.  I don’t have to deal with that gully anymore and we’re helping the lakes at the same time,” says Pat.  Pat received cost share through the Chisago Soil & Water Conservation District to fix the gully.  The cost share is available through a Clean Water Fund grant (from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment) the SWCD received to help improve water quality in the Chisago Lakes Chain of Lakes area.
The SWCD designed a water and sediment control basin (basically a mound built up to help hold water back temporarily, with a drain pipe that allows the water to drain out slowly) for the site.  Pat is able to farm around the practice and the gully is gone.  At the same time, Pat and the SWCD tackled another perennial problem on the farm.  A deep gully fed by a road culvert and the watershed on the other side of the road was a constant presence through another field.  In this case, the SWCD designed a grassed waterway.  The flow path was leveled out so that water can spread out, which makes it less likely to cause deep erosion.  The waterway was covered with erosion control blanket and seeded.
Both of these perennial problems had been identified in an assessment completed by the SWCD.  The Rural Subwatershed Assessment has been completed for the entire Chain of Lakes watershed and has identified hundreds of potential projects like Pat’s.  For more information on the assessment or possible cost share funding, please contact the SWCD at 651-674-2333.