Great Outdoor Store, Patagonia support Big Sioux River mapping

Jan. 25, 2018

The nonprofit group Friends of the Big Sioux River noticed a problem: There was no one way to tell exactly what type of land is adjacent to the river.

“So our proposal was to map the Big Sioux River, specifically looking at what type of land is directly adjacent to the banks,” said board member Steven Dahlmeier. “Is there pastureland, row crop, is it forested, is it urban, parkland, so we’re putting all that together, and it will be all available publicly through Google Earth or any mapping program.”

The group’s efforts were supported by a $5,000 grant from Patagonia granted through the Great Outdoor Store.

Volunteers have spent much of the past year canvassing the area and recording uses along the banks. The idea was sparked by a change in state law last year allowing landowners to apply for tax incentives if they install buffer strips between agricultural land and waterways.

The buffer strips of vegetation help keep fertilizer and other contaminants from reaching the water.

Eligible strips are assessed for 60 percent of the land’s agricultural income value.

The mapping has allowed Friends of the Big Sioux River to learn more about “what’s actually out there,” Dahlmeier said. “A lot of times, fingers are pointed as far as who’s the main cause of pollution in the river. Is it farmers, is it urban, so we wanted to educate ourselves. And we were a little surprised by some of the findings.”

For instance, many landowners north of Sioux Falls are keeping cattle out of the river, he said.

“We’re seeing more people by Renner fencing cattle and installing buffer strips, so we were definitely pleased to see that. As we get farther north, we do start to see more cattle in the river.”

In some cases, farmers might have a 30- or 40-foot buffer but would qualify for a tax incentive with a 50-foot one, “so maybe we approach them and explain if you expand that 10 feet you’ll qualify for a new program and help the health of the river. It’s a win-win,” Dahlmeier said.

The group also plans to use some of its funds to educate residents in more urban areas, including Sioux Falls, about ways they can keep pollutants out of the river.

“Don’t overfertilize,” he said. “If you have a creek or watershed in your backyard, you don’t have to mow right up to the edge of the water. Give it a little space. You can do your part, and it’s not hard. You just have to be conscious of what you’re doing. Pick up after your dog and things like that.”

Friends of the Big Sioux River will give an update tonight and show short films on water quality at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of Visual Materials, 500 N. Main Ave.

Great Outdoor Store, Patagonia support Big Sioux River mapping

Here’s one good step toward a cleaner, more user-friendly Big Sioux River thanks to Great Outdoor Store, Patagonia and dedicated volunteers.

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