An emphasis toward moving the Big Sioux River away from impaired status is starting to show progress. The waterway north of Sioux Falls and its tributaries are becoming cleaner.

Dana Loeske with Friends of the Big Sioux River estimates a significant portion of the upper basin near Watertown will hit crucial sanitary benchmarks this year.

“After we close 2017, the Big Sioux River Watershed Project will probably have almost 39 miles of the upper watershed protected in riparian zones in some way or another. The results of the bacteria (samples) have been going down and Skunk Creek has been de-listed for sediment which is a huge accomplishment. We’re getting some good results.”

Initially livestock producers adjacent to the Big Sioux get financial incentives to add riparian buffer strips. Loeske says farmers will likely see tangible benefits in their operation.

“I believe they signed a 10-15 year contract. They are paid upfront on it, so it’s not forever. Once you start doing the right thing most landowners want to continue doing the right thing as far as protecting their water. The cattle get healthier by not being in the muddy creek bottoms, they gain weight quicker, they get to market faster, and reduces input cost. (Producers) really like it.”

As the effort works its way south, Loeske says the goal is to make the Big Sioux swimmable by the year 2025.

The Friends of the Big Sioux River will have an informational meeting on Tuesday (February 28) to report their current progress and outline their goals for the upcoming year.

If you would like to attend, it’s 6:30PM at Monk’s House of Ale Repute on 8th St. in Downtown Sioux Falls.”

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