WILLMAR ­- All residents and landowners in the Shakopee Creek area in northwest Kandiyohi County are invited to a picnic and information meeting about land and water quality Aug. 21 at Kandiyohi County Park No. 7 on Games Lake. The picnic and informal discussion will be available 4:30 to 7 p.m., with a short overview presentation at 6 p.m. Families are welcome, and there is no cost to attend.

The Shakopee Creek area around Norway Lake is in the spotlight for trying out some new tools to protect and improve water quality throughout the entire Minnesota River Basin and beyond. Local residents have an important role in deciding what needs to be done, and how. Information and experience gathered will be used as examples for other watershed areas to follow.

The Minnesota River Basin has been identified as a major source of excess amounts of runoff, sediment and algae-fueling nutrients to the Mississippi River, and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

Perched near the top of the Minnesota River Basin, the Shakopee Creek headwaters area is a good candidate for the pilot project, says Skip Wright, district manager in the DNR ecological and water resources office at Sibley State Park.

“There’s been a long history of landowners and agencies working together in the Shakopee Creek headwaters area on land and water conservation projects,” says Wright.

Since the late 1990s, much work has been done through the Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Chippewa River Watershed Project, which includes the Shakopee Creek subwatershed. A good example is the Olson wetland restoration on Highway 9 near the intersection with County Road 1. The native wetland had been drained by County Ditch 29. Now a restored wetland, it helps trap sediment and excess nutrients that otherwise would impact West Norway Lake.

“We hope that this work will help target and prioritize similar projects in the nearby County Ditch 27 watershed, which remains the highest source of runoff, nutrients and bacteria to the Norway-Games chain of lakes,” says Wright.

Led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Minnesota Environmental Quality Board, local, state, and federal agencies are collaborating on better tools for conservation crews and land owners. They include the latest computer models of the landscape and water that will support more efficient and effective decision-making about water quality improvement projects. A similar Minnesota River Basin pilot project is under way in the Seven Mile Creek watershed near St. Peter.

“This is a great opportunity for the Chippewa River Watershed Project to further assist landowners with conservation practices that promote both productive land use and water quality,” says Kylene Olson, director. Created in 1997, the project is now organized as a joint powers agreement with Chippewa, Swift, Pope, Douglas, Grant, Stevens, and Kandiyohi counties.

For more information, contact Kylene Olson, director, Chippewa River Watershed Project, 320-269-2139 ext. 116,kylene@chippewariver.org. If you plan to attend the picnic, please RSVP to Kylene Olson.