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May 2017 Newsletter 
North Central Region Water Network
Extension-led, community-driven outreach and education
Director's Update

Cedar, Sycamore, and Resilience
Kansas is green this season. When we flew in to Kansas City a few days ago and drove west, the rangelands were flowing waves grass waving in the wind.  Through a seed-funded project from the North Central Region Water Network, a group of us, mostly from land-grant Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and 1862 land-grant universities like K-State, gathered to talk about water and how we could help one another listen, learn, teach, and facilitate more effectively.
We were hosted by K-State and Haskell Indian Nations University. Haskell serves students of federally recognized tribes from across the United States. Dr. Venida Chenault, Haskell's President, and Dr. Ernie Minton, K-State Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Programs Associate Director of Research and Technology Transfer welcomed us for their respective institutions.
We learned so much from our presenters about some of the differences between cultures and working styles at TCUs and 1862 land-grants; about the dangers of minimizing, rather than honoring and exploring difference; about successful collaborations between TCUs and 1862 land-grants from across the North Central Region, such as those between UW-Madison and the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College, and the great work that K-State is doing with the Kickapoo Tribe In Kansas and the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.
The Kickapoo and Potawatomi generously hosted us as we toured some of the stream bank restorations on the Kickapoo and Potawatomi Reservations. Unlike the green prairies and treetops we saw driving over, on the ground we saw where land uses (many off-reservation) had increased runoff and torn brown scars into the earth as the water scoured through the deep soils. We also saw how tribal environmental departments, K-State, and Haskell worked together to restore stretches of river to protect water quality and tribal lands. 
Red cedar trees were cut and laid along the river bank to protect it and capture soil. The captured soil builds the toe of the channel slope, slowing further erosion. Willow, cottonwood and sycamore were planted to further stabilize the channel.  Some of the 17-year-old sycamore that we saw were already 10-12 inches in diameter - thriving with their feet wet in the river bottom and their roots protected by the cedars and the soil nested in their web of branches. On one of the newer restorations, a mix of grasses and trees turned the brown scar back to a vibrant green.
Collaborating on the restorations, students, professors, and environmental professionals learned to understand, respect, and trust one another, providing fertile ground for future work.  In coming together at Haskell, our group is like the cedar, capturing the soil of knowledge, and like the sycamore, weaving together the roots of success already growing in the soils of the North Central Region. We hope connecting those roots will lead to more resilient rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and aquifers, and more resilient communities that depend on water for their survival. 
Thanks to Professor Charles Barden (K-State) and Professor Bill Welton (Haskell) for a great meeting and for your many years of weaving.

If you would like to contribute ideas for the future of the North Central Region Water Network, feel free to send me a note at .


Rebecca Power, Network Director


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Network Initiatives

Visit our Network Initiative Page  for more information on current and previous initiatives, and future funding opportunities. 

Pathways for Information Transfer Between Manure Nutrient Management Agriculture Professionals 2015


How does manure nutrient management information flow? The "Pathways" project's goals were to understand and delineate pathways for effective information dissemination and use among various agricultural professional audiences that facilitate successful integrated (research/outreach/education) projects and programs. The major activity associated with this project was a national survey taken by 964 manure nutrient management professionals addressing the relevance of information sources (inputs), information products (outputs) and collaborators (links). The survey data provided the following insights: (1) the manure nutrient management field is increasingly female; (2) most organizations focus their efforts on one or two tasks related to manure nutrient management; however, University and Extension professionals tended to select more tasks per person than other organizations; (3) the most relevant sources of information among all survey respondents were Farm or Field Setting, Science-based Sites and Consultation, and the least relevant were Research Paper or Technical Document, Classroom Setting and Social Media. Mind-mapping software was used to aggregate the broad array of results. The mind-map exercise was invaluable for the team members involved, but the utility of this map was not completely understood by the larger agricultural professional community when presented in a national webinar. This supports the survey result showing lower relevance for decision tools, but also spurs additional work to further investigate implications of these potential communication links. This project was the cumulative work of a North Central Region team who performed data analysis and mind-mapping, as well as a national team who helped test and refine the survey, and provide feedback on project steps and results throughout. Based on the North Central Region Water Network survey, this work created new collaborations and increased Extension/outreach capacity in the North Central region and beyond.

Purpose or Need: 

While manure is recognized in the agricultural industry as a valuable source of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic material for plant growth, the point and non-point source discharge of nutrients and bacteria can be substantial if manure is not managed properly. To this end, a significant amount of effort and money has been put into development of manure nutrient management research and programs. Manure nutrient management is also part of several states' nitrogen and phosphorus reduction strategies for reducing the nutrient load on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico (Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force, 2008; EPA, 2014).

There are barriers, however, that prevent the flow of important, timely information between research projects and educational programs and the appropriate audience type, thus limiting the impact and usefulness of those efforts. Additionally, education strategies differ between persons and projects (i.e. Shepard, 1999), organizations and regions meaning they need to be received by the end user in the correct format for effective implementation. Furthermore, the success of educational outreach and programs are affected by voluntary versus mandatory adoption (Poe et al., 2001), highlighting the need for tailored programing and content delivery.

A map of the pathways between information producers and users is vital, along with identification of end user format and language necessary for comprehension and implementation. By providing a pathway to audience types and needs, organizations can realistically identify the target groups for specific project outcomes and produce tailored products, information sources, and formats for end users. In addition, this hierarchal pathway allows organizations to select project partners from specific agencies in their regions to communicate with directly and produce a tailored and more impactful product.

Project Goals: 

The overall goals of this project were to establish documented pathways for effective information dissemination and use among various agricultural professional audiences that facilitate successful integrated (research/outreach/education) projects and programs. The specific goals were:
  1. For North Central Region project team and agricultural professionals to understand how manure nutrient management information is gathered and shared and the barriers to sharing (NCRWN Goal to increase multi-state connectivity and learning among university professionals and partners);
  2. To provide agricultural professionals who develop outreach and education programs the information they need to understand inter-disciplinary terminology around manure nutrient management (NCWRN Goal to build capacity and expand successful Extension programming); and
  3. Develop a model for effective pathways of information dissemination of manure nutrient management from research to implementation (NCWRN Goal to build capacity and expand successful Extension programming). 
Methods and Activities: 
The major activities and methods used to address the project goals were as follows:
  • The project team demonstrates collaboration between university researchers, extension educators and partners.  The project team consists of a core, North Central Team responsible for the grant activities, as well as a National Team who have consistently provided input to the survey development, data review, and dissemination processes. Table 1 lists the project team members who have contributed through regular meeting participation.
  • Table 2 lists the additional connections to this project. These participants have expressed interest in the Pathways project since its inception in 2013, and have remained on the mailing list for project updates.
  • Monthly web/phone based conference calls were conducted. 

Erin Cortus
Extension Specialist, South Dakota State University



Leadership Spotlight

Each month we call attention to a significant state-led project and associated leadership team member from our Network. These spotlights demonstrate the diversity of ongoing water research and outreach projects in our region. Please contact your state's North Central Region Water Network Leadership Team member for details on the projects in your area. 

Educating Law and Policy Makers on Subsurface Drainage 

Since 1993, the upper Great Plains has experienced what climatologist's call "a wet cycle." The upper Great Plains encompass North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Until 2010, most of the excess precipitation occurred in the eastern half of the Great Plains. However, since 2010, the western half of the Great Plains has received above average precipitation. The effects of the increased precipitation are higher water levels in lakes and other water bodies, increased flooding conditions and higher ground water levels.

Higher ground water levels in farmers' fields has resulted in many acres of saturated soil, leading to loss of crops and productive farmland due to increased salinity. The installation and management of subsurface drainage (tile) has now become a common practice on many farms. Legislators (local and state), government agency personnel, local water boards and many citizens are not familiar with this practice. Non-familiarity has raised questions about the impact of the discharge to existing drainage ditches, road ditches, downstream neighbors, wetlands, etc. Many landowners have complained about the time it takes to perform a wetland determination on fields they intend to tile. These issues are of particular concern in North Dakota, northwestern Minnesota and South Dakota.

To address these issues, the congressional offices of the US house members from North Dakota and northwest Minnesota collaborated with NDSU Extension and others to organize and provide testimony at a half-day listening session on subsurface drainage. This was an official listening session headed by the chair of the US House Conservation and Forestry subcommittee and was also attended by the US house member from South Dakota. The purpose of the session was to present unbiased information on subsurface drainage and educate the panel. Over 110 representatives from many farm and commodity organizations and government agencies attended the listening session.
Shortly after the listening session, a second forum was held with the US house members from North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota to discuss implementation of policies and/or legislation to improve the regulatory processes associated with subsurface drainage. Many farmers, farm organizations and commodity group representatives along with government agency personnel attended the forum.
At the request of a North Dakota state senator, NDSU Extension held a training session to provide subsurface drainage education to 15 state legislators. In addition to the presentations, the legislators and their staffs were taken on a tour of a subsurface drainage project. One of the outcomes of the training was a reformulation of the North Dakota state subsurface drainage law. One of the significant changes to the law was the term "tile drainage" being replaced by "subsurface water management."
In late June of this year, we will be providing subsurface drainage training to the International Legislators Forum in Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is an annual convening of 32 legislators from North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Manitoba where topics of the legislators choosing are presented in a balanced and impartial fashion. After the forum, the legislators will make decisions and agreements regarding subsurface drainage using a consensus-based decision-making process.
Because subsurface drainage is relatively new to the upper Great Plains, questions and concerns about changes to hydrology and other impacts will require continual research and training for many years.

Tom Scherer, North Dakota State University

Tom Scherer was raised on a dairy farm in central Minnesota. He served six years in the US Navy and obtained bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degrees in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Minnesota. From 1980 to 1983 he worked for the State of Minnesota as a public health Engineer. From 1987 to 1991 he was an assistant professor and irrigation specialist with the University of Arizona. In 1991, he began working for the NDSU Extension Service. He is responsible for leadership and development of statewide educational programs involving irrigation systems and management, onsite wastewater (septic) systems, private water delivery and treatment systems, drainage, and water resource management.

Tom Scherer, PhD
Extension Agricultural Engineer and Associate Professor


2017 Midwest Farm Energy Conference
Morris, MN. June 13 - 14
The 2017 Midwest Farm Energy Conference is scheduled for June 13-14, 2017. The conference will highlight energy efficient systems for Midwest dairies (on June 13th), as well as for swine production systems (on June 14th).   Several registration packages are available for the Midwest Farm Energy Conference including full conference, single day option, student pricing, and the option to attend the keynote dinner only.   Learn more.

Northwest Wisconsin Lakes Conference
Hayward, WI. June 16
The Northwest Wisconsin Lakes Conference will feature twelve different breakout sessions on a wide variety of lake-related topics and issues. Sessions are presented by lake and natural resource-related nonprofit organizations and private business exhibitors.  This year's keynote address Watershed Management-Integrating Social Science into Lake Planning will be presented by speakers Aaron Thompson from UW-Stevens Point and Nels Paulson from UW-Stout. Learn more.

Looking for exciting summer opportunities for high school kids? Online registration is now open for Conservation Camp!  The WI Land+ Water Conservation Camp  will be held June 19-23,  2017  at the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters, WI for students entering grades 9, 10, 11 or 12 in the  2017 /2018 school year. Learn more.

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. June 21
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Water Resources Regional Body will meet on June 21. The meeting is open to the public and will include an opportunity for public comments. Meeting participation will also be open via conference call. The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council will meet immediately following the Regional Body meeting. Learn more.

Grand Rapids, MI. June 24, 2017
The festival is a free-of-charge, day long music-driven Environmental Festival featuring Traditional Folk, Country, Bluegrass, Cajun, Blues and World Beat music, performed by Michigan musicians. The festival's organizers  are able to use music and activities to draw together diverse groups of folks from the West Michigan community, who are then educated on water quality issues by Speakers from diverse environmental groups in-between bands.  There will be opportunities to learn about environmental organizations, purchase quality environmentally-conscious goods and food from vendors, and to support the festival's musicians.  Learn more.

Water Tour to Central Platte River Basin
Holdrege, NE. June 27-29
The summer Water and Natural Resources Tour will look at surface and groundwater issues in the central Platte River basin June 27-29.  Increasing and competing demands on the basin's finite supplies of water will be central to discussions and stops on this summer's three-day tour as it delves into surface and groundwater irrigation, water rights, hydropower production, trans-basin diversions of water and many other topics.  The tour begins and ends in Holdrege. It will visit an organic farming operation, irrigation and hydropower production facilities, Natural Resources District projects, and look at the history and current directions for water use in the basin, including presentations on current and planned diversion projects. Learn more.

Do you know of an upcoming water or conservation event in the Midwest? Add it to the NCRWN website here

Funding and Other Opportunities

FY17 and FY18 Tribal Wetland Program Development Grants
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is soliciting proposals from eligible applicants to develop or refine tribal wetland programs as described in Section I, FUNDING OPPORTUNITY DESCRIPTION, of this announcement. Tribes and intertribal consortia are eligible to apply under this announcement, as further described herein. Non-profit organizations are not eligible to compete under this RFP. Applications are due by June 5.  Learn more.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act 2018 U.S. Standard Grants
The U.S. Standard Grants Program is a competitive, matching grants program that supports public-private partnerships carrying out projects in the United States that further the goals of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. These projects must involve only long-term protection, restoration, enhancement and/or establishment of wetlands and associated uplands habitats for the benefit of all wetlands-associated migratory birds. A 1:1 match is required. Research funding is ineligible. Applications are due by July 14.  Learn more.

Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Landscape Conservation Cooperative, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), Midwest Region, is soliciting proposals to conduct field assessments of aquatic barriers and fish passability in tributaries in Lake Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario watersheds. Data collected on dams will be incorporated into an already developed barrier database and will enable improved estimates of aquatic barrier removal costs, cumulative passability within watersheds, and infrastructure maintenance challenges. By fall 2017, researchers at, and cooperators with, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will have completed dam assessments for the entire Lake Michigan watershed. The desire is to have a comprehensive assessment and common dam data for the entire Great Lakes basin. As such, any proposal must compliment and collect data comparable to the Lakes Michigan assessment to be incorporated into the existing barrier database. Applications are due by June 16. Learn more.

Lead Exposure Registry of Flint Residents - Michigan
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces the availability of fiscal year (FY) 2017 funds of approximately $3.6 million to support the City of Flint, MI, and the State of Michigan to build their capacity to: 1) identify strategies for community and stakeholder outreach and training to maximize interest, support, and participation in a public health registry for residents who were exposed to lead-contaminated water from the Flint River during April 25, 2014-October 15, 2015; 2) develop the registry to identify eligible residents, as defined by the applicant; 3) recruit and enroll eligible residents, collect their baseline information, and refer them to services; 4) ensure a referral process to link registrants to comprehensive, coordinated services to mitigate the effects of lead exposure; and 5) select appropriate measures and frequency of follow-up to track registrants' measures of exposure, health, and developmental milestones along with their choices of interventions, services, and enrichment activities undertaken during the project period. Applications are due by June 28. Learn more.

In Case You Missed it...

The Current  is a speed networking webinar series for professionals engaged in water-related extension, research, and conservation activities. The North Central Region Water Network and Extension Directors from all 12 North Central states are sponsoring this series to highlight the best water-related research and Extension programming in the region. Webinars will run for 60 minutes, with three 10-minute project snapshots and 30 minutes of QA/peer-to-peer interaction.

Upcoming: The Current 29 - Promoting Natural and Healthy Shorelines for Protecting Lakes
June 21, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Julia Kirkwood, Non-Point Source Grants Project Manager at MI Dept of Environmental Quality: The MI Natural Shoreline Partnership: Creating a Comprehensive Approach for Promoting Healthy Shoreline Management
  • Bindu Bhakti, Water Quality Educator at Michigan State University Extension Oakland County: The Importance of Natural Shorelines: Program Basics and Lessons Learned from Property Owner and Train-the-Trainer Programs
  • Patrick Goggin, UW-Extension Lake Specialist, and Pamela Toshner, Lake Biologist at Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Wisconsin's Healthy Lakes Initiative and Best Management Practices for Lake-Friendly Living

Past:  The Current 28 - Seeing Your Story: Data Visualization and Mapping in Education and Outreach
May 17, 2017, 2:00-3:00 CT
  • Shane Bradt, University of New Hampshire Extension


A New Normal? Springtime Flooding Becoming More Common for Midwest as Planet Warms
Warmer global temperatures have increased evaporation from Earth's oceans. That leads to higher levels of humidity, which in turn produces heavier rainfall and severe flooding, said Justin Schoof, a climatologist and the chair of Geography and Environmental Resources at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.  "This is one example of something that we theorize should happen in a warmer world: we should be getting more heavy rain events. But it's also an example of something that we've already observed happening," Schoof said. Learn more.

Six University of Nebraska researchers will join colleagues at Penn State University, Arizona State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service to develop a model for engaging communities and stakeholders to ensure adequate supplies of good-quality water both for and from agriculture. Learn more.

Kansas Researchers Say Climate Change Will Deteriorate Midwest Water Quality
Midwesterners are used to extreme weather. We take pride in enduring everything from torrential downpours to the most desiccating drought. Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of these fluctuations between drought and flood, though, according to new research published by scientists at the University of Kansas, and this "weather whiplash" will deteriorate the quality of drinking water. Learn more.

Central Iowa Farm Showcases Water Quality Practices
The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Land Improvement Contractors Association hosted their annual water quality and agriculture field day for legislators last week. The afternoon event took place at the LICA farm located in central Iowa, near Melbourne in Marshall County. The tour included in-depth explanations of a variety of water quality practices employed on the 80-acre farm.  These practices include wetlands, terraces, sediment control basins, grassed waterways, water control structures, a bioreactor and a rain garden. This was the fifth year the LICA farm has hosted the special tour for legislators. Learn more.

Prevent Spread of Zebra Mussels
It's a problem spreading into lakes and rivers across the Midwest and into Nebraska, and the public can help stop it. Zebra mussels, which look like snails or clams, are small but destructive. They damage boats, clog water intakes and impact the environment of lakes and rivers where they live.
They have caused millions of dollars in damage to water systems and fisheries, and have been found in recent years in lakes and rivers in and around Nebraska.   That's why it is important, as the summer boating season begins, to prevent the spread of zebra mussels by following a few simple steps.  Nebraska Public Power District wants to alert boaters of this issue and prevent the spread of invasive species.  "Think don't move a mussel" says NPPD Environmental Manager Joe Citta.  Learn more.

Learn more about NCRWN

NCRWN Fact Sheet
Want to see what we have been up to in the North Central Region Water Network? Check out our fact sheet for more details. 

Our Mission:

We work together to expand and enhance multi-state water outreach and research efforts across the North Central Region of the United States.

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