Watershed Projects

The English Coulee Watershed

The main goal of the English Coulee Watershed project is to implement best management practices that improve and restore the water quality within the Coulee.

The Grand Forks Soil Conservation district has funding available for residents living within the English Coulee Watershed who are willing to participate in the program. Funding for these practices are provided on a 60/40 match, where 319 federal funds will pay 60% of the project cost and 40% paid by the participant.

Cost Shared Practices include but are not limited to:

  • Septic System Replacement/Repair
  • Portable Windbreaks for livestock
  • Prescribed Grazing
  • Livestock Watering Facilities
  • Cover Crops
  • Field Buffers and Grassed Waterways
  • Nutrient Management
  • Pasture/Hayland Planting
  • Riparian Buffers

Figure 1. The English Coulee Watershed.

The Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District in cooperation with the NRCS, ND Department of Health, and ND Forest Service will provide financial or technical assistance to implement non-point source pollution Best Management Practices (BMP’s) to improve water quality and watershed health.  These practices focus on preventing sources of pollution from entering waterways, allowing the watershed to cleanse itself.  The following examples of BMP’s describe a few of the conservation improvements that can be made.  Residents of the English Coulee watershed interested in implementing similar conservation practices on their property are encouraged to contact the Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District.  Cost share assistance is available for eligible practices but must be applied for before any work is done on a project.

The English Coulee watershed is an 85,813 acre watershed located in Grand Forks County in northeastern North Dakota (Figure 1). This watershed lies within three Level IV ecoregions, the Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin, Sand Deltas and Beach Ridges, and Saline Areas. The Glacial Lake Agassiz Basin ecoregion is comprised of thick beds of glacial drift overlain by silt and clays from glacial Lake Agassiz. The topography of this region is extremely flat, with sparse lakes and pothole wetlands. Tallgrass prairie was the dominant habitat prior to European settlement and has now been replaced with intensive agriculture. Agricultural production in the southern region consists of corn, soybeans, wheat, and sugar beets.

The Sand Deltas and Beaches Ridges ecoregion disrupts the flat topography of the Red River Valley. The beach ridges are parallel lines of sand and gravel that were formed by wave action of the contracting shoreline levels of Lake Agassiz. These deltas consists of fine and coarse sand blown into dunes.

Saline Area Ecoregion is characterized by salty artesian groundwater flowing to the surface. Areas of heavily saline soils are primarily grazed, while moderate salinity soils are planted into sunflowers, sugarbeets, and potatoes (USGS, 2006).

The English Coulee is a Class III stream. The North Dakota Department of Health definition of a class III stream is shown below.

Class III- The quality of the waters in this class shall be suitable for agricultural and industrial uses. Streams in this class generally have low average flows with prolonged periods of no flow. During periods of no flow, they are of limited value for recreation and fish and aquatic biota. The quality of these waters must be maintained to protect such uses as recreational (e.g., wading), fish and aquatic biota, and wildlife habitat.

Best Management Practices (BMP’s)

Septic Replacement or repair

The need for this practice was identified through previous monitoring and applications have been taken and approved based on the following criteria.

  • Section 319 cost share assistance cannot exceed 60% of total eligible costs. The balance (i.e., 40%) of cost will be the responsibility of system owner. All bills will need to be submitted at one time. There will be ONE cost-share check processed for each system.
  • System is privately owned and must have been installed before January 1, 2000 and is discharging effluent directly into a waterbody and/or identified as a primary source of pollutants impairing beneficial uses of waterbody.
  • Existing failing system needs to be physically located 1 mile or less from the English Coulee or its tributaries. Motion made by Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District September 14, 2010 to adopt these policies.
  • Failure of the system cannot be attributed to mismanagement or accidental damage by the current owner.
  • System has been identified through appropriate study or investigation, to be a primary source of pollutant.
  • The system is for private household or privately owned dairy facility.
  • The system replacement or repairs have been installed according to Plumbing Codes of private Sewage Disposal Systems (Chapter 62-03.1-03) and or any requirements established by local District Health Unit.

Riparian Buffer Strip, Filter Strip, Field Borders

Consists of areas of permanent, typically native, prairie grasses planted along fields, drainage areas or streams. The grasses prevent soil erosion by wind or overland water flow, utilize excess nutrients such as Phosphorus and Nitrogen, and utilize excess water to help with salinity management while providing food and cover for wildlife.  Field Border areas can be used for hay following specific guidelines.

 Stream bank Stabilization

Projects vary depending on the conditions of the area they are applied to, but the goal is the same; preventing catastrophic erosion of stream channels.  Erosion of stream banks contribute excessive sediment loads, choking streams, promoting aquatic nuisance species growth, and inhibiting fishing and other recreation uses.  Catastrophic failure of channel walls can threaten homes, cropland, grazing areas, roads, power lines and other forms of infrastructure.

Prescribed Grazing/ Livestock Watering Management/Portable Windbreak Panels

Prescribed grazing and livestock water management have potential to economically benefit the land owner over the course of several years.  When applied properly, prescribed grazing and associated watering management can improve animal health and productivity, prevent livestock injury associated with being stuck in mud around stream channels or falls from stream bank failures, promotes forage vigor, and reduce short term drought impacts on production. By providing livestock with clean watering sources, producers prevent E. coli and fecal coliform pollution of streams, which promotes disease control.

Portable windbreak panels help producers manage manure while providing much needed shelter. Proper manure management through the use of these panels will reduce nutrients from entering the English Coulee waterway.

For more information on any of these practices please contact Justin Parks with any questions.


Justin Parks
Watershed Coordinator
Grand Forks County
Soil Conservation District
Phone: 701-772-2321 Ext 3674
justin.parks1@nd.nacdnet.net


The Turtle River Watershed Project

The district relinquished funds for the Turtle River Watershed Project in 2017 to better focus on the English Coulee Watershed.

The Turtle River Watershed is the largest of our project areas, covering approximately 685 square miles or 438,400 acres of north-eastern North Dakota.  Communities located within this watershed include:  Larimore, Arvilla, Emerado, Grand Forks Air Force Base, Gilby, Manvel, Mekinock, Kelly, McCanna, Niagara, and Petersburg.  Recreational, commercial, residential, wild life, agricultural land uses, soil types and landforms, and climate conditions all contribute to the water quality of the Turtle River and the overall health of the watershed.  Poor land use management impairs fishing, drives soil salinity, destroys wildlife habitat, promotes overland flooding, increases soil erosion and weakens producer yields.

The Turtle River Watershed (Implementation) Project began in the fall of 2009 and will span the course of 5 years.  The Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District in cooperation with the NRCS, ND Department of Health, and ND Forest Service will provide financial or technical assistance to implement non-point source pollution Best Management Practices (BMP’s) to improve Turtle River water quality and watershed health.  These practices focus on preventing sources of pollution from entering waterways, allowing the watershed to cleanse itself.  The following examples of BMP’s describe a few of the conservation improvements that can be made.  Residents of the Turtle River watershed interested in implementing similar conservation practices on their property are encouraged to contact the Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District.  Cost share assistance is available for eligible practices but must be applied for before any work is done on a project.

Septic Replacement or repair

The need for this practice was identified, and beginning in 2011, applications have been taken and approved based on the following criteria.

  • Section 319 cost share assistance cannot exceed 60% of total eligible costs. The balance (i.e., 40%) of cost will be the responsibility of system owner. All bills will need to be submitted at one time. There will be ONE cost-share check processed for each system.
  • System is privately owned and must have been installed before January 1, 2000 and is discharging effluent directly into a waterbody and/or identified as a primary source of pollutants impairing beneficial uses of waterbody.
  • Existing failing system needs to be physically located 1 mile or less from the Turtle River or it’s tributaries. Motion made by Grand Forks County Soil Conservation District September 14, 2010 to adopt these policies.
  • Failure of the system cannot be attributed to mismanagement or accidental damage by the current owner.
  • System has been identified through appropriate study or investigation, to be a primary source of pollutant.
  • The system is for private household or privately owned dairy facility.
  • The system replacement or repairs have been installed according to Plumbing Codes of private Sewage Disposal Systems (Chapter 62-03.1-03) and or any requirements established by local District Health Unit.

Riparian Buffer Strip, Filter Strip, Field Borders

Consists of areas of permanent, typically native, prairie grasses planted along fields, drainage areas or streams.  The grasses prevent soil erosion by wind or overland water flow, utilize excess nutrients such as Phosphorus and Nitrogen, and utilize excess water to help with salinity management, and provide food and cover for wildlife.  Field Border areas can be used for hay, following specific guidelines.

Stream bank Stabilization

Projects vary depending on the conditions of the area they are applied to, but the goal is the same; preventing catastrophic erosion of stream channels.  Erosion of stream banks on the Turtle River and its tributaries contribute excessive sediment loads, choking streams, promoting aquatic nuisance species growth, and inhibiting fishing and other recreation uses.  Catastrophic failure of channel walls can threaten homes, cropland, grazing areas, roads, power lines and other forms of infrastructure.

Stream Channel Restoration

Restores the natural meander to portions of the Turtle River or its tributaries from artificially channelized flow.  Restoring the natural meander of the stream slows water flow, reducing stream bank erosion and catastrophic failure and provides increased storage during Spring snowmelt or storm events to alleviate flooding.

Prescribed Grazing and Livestock Watering Management

Prescribed grazing and livestock water management have potential to economically benefit the land owner over the course of several years.  When applied properly, prescribed grazing and associated watering management can improve animal health and productivity, prevent livestock injury associated with being stuck in mud around stream channels or falls from stream bank failures, promotes forage vigor, and reduce short term drought impacts on production.   By providing livestock with clean watering sources, producers prevent E. coli and fecal coli form pollution of streams, which promotes disease control.