By Katrina Vaitkus
In 2018, Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Minnesota was able to hire Mark Greve as their soil and water engineer-in-training thanks to an NACD Technical Assistance (TA) Grant. The district had previously been lacking the technical support for conservation practices that required engineering tasks such as surveying and design.
District Administrator Dennis Fuchs is very thankful for the opportunity the 2018 TA Grant provided. “It was used to bring on a new generation of professionals to ensure that skills, expertise and relationships are available locally to implement voluntary conservation projects,” he said.
Since joining the team, Greve has assisted with designs for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)-eligible practices, including grassed waterways, alternative inlets, manure management and sediment control basins.
“Landowners are really short on time to spend with us because they have so many demands on their time,” Fuchs said. “Having a person like Mark join our team to provide that engineering assistance in a way that is very farmer-friendly has been a great way to provide technical assistance in a way that ensures they actually enjoy working with us.”
Greve has been able to provide assistance to landowners interested in the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program (MAWQCP), a program that recognizes landowners who worked to protect their surface waters and groundwater. Through the assessment of a landowner’s property, conservation practices that could improve water quality are identified. Some of these practices might require engineering assistance, which Greve provides, such as rock inlets or buffers for waterways.
Producers subject to the Minnesota Buffer Law have also received assistance from Greve to implement conservation practices along their public waterways. A practice frequently implemented has been a controlled tile inlet, which filters and slows surface water entering the inlet.
Greve’s assistance has caused some landowners to become more open to conservation practices. “One farmer had significant pollutant runoff but was not entirely open to conservation practices,” Greve said. “I designed seven rock intakes that helped reduce his required buffer from 50 feet to 16.5 feet. He now is interested in adding more intakes to his other fields.”
Greve continues to expand his knowledge through his work on these projects and will be pursuing full Professional Engineer licensure in the future. He has established great working relationships with landowners in Stearns County and continues to provide the engineering assistance they require. “I’d like to thank NACD for the opportunity to partner on this,” Fuchs said.