As more of us look to nature and spend time outdoors during this pandemic, a lot of us are rethinking the way we live our lives. People are kindling and even igniting their appreciation for the natural environment around them. For a healthy and environmentally just Earth, we must also give back to the environment because, as Bruce Albright, former Administrator of the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District, would say, “you have to listen to mother nature, she’s going to win every time in the end.” The Wolverton Creek Restoration project is doing just this, by farming the best, and buffering the rest.
Rural Vitality – Wolverton Creek Restoration
Presented by Houston Engineering
Conversation efforts to restore Wolverton Creek began in the 1950s by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly known as the Soil Conservation Service, with landowners who identified the need for restoration because the creek was filling up with sediment. The Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) got involved with this work in the early 1980s and has convened over 20 years’ worth of meetings with landowners and local communities to ensure the restoration project would not only benefit the environment, but also landowners who farm along Wolverton Creek. Wolverton Creek is 26.5 miles of pre-annual stream habitat on the western part of the BBRWD, that drains directly into the Red River, with inlets upstream of the cities of Fargo and Moorhead, where both cities receive their drinking water. This project includes 800 acres of floodplain restoration that will be seeded with native prairie habitat, resulting in improved water quality, an improved outlet, and conductivity for wildlife.
When the Wolverton Creek Restoration project is completed later this year, its success will be because of BRRWD’s collaboration with landowners and partners. The magnitude of this project required bringing people together and ensuring everyone would benefit, and to do this, it required a two-way listening process between BRRWD and landowners. When we spoke with Bruce Albright, former Administrator of BBWRD, he said, “The key for doing the work today, is that if we’re going to go through and get the waterways restored and get the benefits, we want to make sure we don’t fill it up again.” To do this, BRRWD continues to do comprehensive projects and put in best management practices (BMPs) to ensure the project has a long lifespan. Some may think that once the restoration is complete, the work is complete, but it’s just getting started, because people will continue to work together to manage and ensure the creek is healthy. As Bruce puts it, “Wolverton Creek is the big vein that goes to your heart, if that doesn’t work, all the little ones in your arms and legs doesn’t make a difference.”
A Shining Example
A key takeaway from Wolverton Creek Restoration is the ability to replicate the work for other creeks. BRRWD was able to get one permit from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the entire 26-mile creek, which was record setting for the state of Minnesota. This large-scale permitting process will allow the DNR to efficiently permit more projects in the future. As people continue to pay attention to this project, they will learn how it works and be able to apply it to other creek restoration. Wolverton Creek Restoration is a small step in the right direction with other projects on the horizon around soil health.
When we spoke with Bruce about his recent retirement and what he has learned from his career of 40 years, he said, “The key word is perseverance – hang in there, sometimes projects don’t come fast, they take time, working with partners, educating and working with the public about your project, is how to get them on board and have a successful project.” We have to agree that the key to success is the willingness to adapt and change with time and those you’re collaborating with. Though Bruce may have retired, he continues his work as a community member, and has already been asked to work with the Otter Tail River Watershed as a volunteer.
Celebrating the 2020 Environmental Initiative Awards
The wait is over – it’s finally time for the 2020 Environmental Initiative Awards! We are excited to celebrate the 2020 Environmental Initiative Awards online with you. While this is the first time in the 26-year history that the Awards event will not convene in person, we remain committed to highlighting innovative, impactful and collaborative people and projects working in partnership at the nexus of a healthy environment, a prosperous economy and an equitable society.