WILLMAR - Stream bank erosion and excessive nitrogen remain the primary water quality problems in Hawk Creek.
Heidi Rauenhorst, director of the Hawk Creek Watershed Project, called stream bank erosion one of the biggest problems facing the waterway.
“We need to hold more water back on lands in our watershed,’’ said Rauenhorst, while speaking at the annual meeting of the Watershed Project on Friday in Willmar.
While some stream bank erosion is normal, ‘‘we’re definitely seeing it an accelerated rate,’’ she told those attending the event at the MinnWest Technology Campus. Too much water is being moved too quickly to the channel, she explained.
Hawk Creek runs 65 miles from Eagle Lake north of Willmar to the Minnesota River, and drains 623,105 acres of land in portions of Chippewa, Kandiyohi and Renville counties.
Monitoring in recent years has shown that the watershed is coming close, and in some cases meeting water quality standards for phosphorus reaching the waterway. Phosphorus levels as monitored at Priam have dropped dramatically since the new Willmar wastewater treatment plant began operations in 2010.
Although the data from the last two years have not been fully analyzed, trends lines show that nitrogen levels in the waterway continue to exceed the standards set for a stream in an agricultural area.
The watershed saw a fish kill incident Aug. 14 when non-treated water with a low level of dissolved oxygen was discharged from the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative plant into Ditch 37.
It reached the West Fork of Beaver Creek, where a fish kill resulted.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources estimated that 22,000 fish, representing 10 different species, were killed along a 7.4-mile reach of the creek, according to information presented at the meeting.
The matter remains under review pending enforcement action.
Rauenhorst reported that the Watershed District has made considerable progress in reducing sediment and nutrient loads into the waterway since its start in 1998. It has helped make possible 1,325 best management projects since its start, and made available more than $3 million in low-interest loans to upgrade septic systems.