On Display
October 22 through March 6, 2021
Blue Earth County Historical Society
424 Warren Street, Mankato

This Exhibit is done in partnership with the following groups:


We Are Water is a traveling exhibit from the MN Humanities Center that is intended as a space for people of all ages and experiences to connect and learn through our shared connection to water.  The exhibit in Mankato will feature a variety of indigenous perspectives on water, a book presentation by noted biology professor emeritus Darby Nelson, a Water Stewardship contest, the Bend of the River Photography club exhibit highlighting their relationships with water, Water Storage Trailblazers, and more.

Share your water stories and images on social media using the hashtag #LoveWaterMN.

Water Trailblazer Awards

This award program celebrates watershed stewards—individuals, families, and community groups—that exemplify a commitment to store more water on the land to reduce harmful flashy flows. After a community call for nominations, a group of judges reviewed the nominations and awarded the following citizen, partnership and outreach awards. Each of the honorees play a critical role to improve area lakes and rivers by slowing the flow, filtering pollutants, and improving overall watershed health. Scott Roemhildt, South Region Director of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, noted “We think of water storage as a landscape issue, but these award winners demonstrate the dramatic positive impact that individuals and organizations can have on a local level, one project at a time.”


Peter’s Family Farms, Nicollet County
Rich Enger, Watonwan County
David “Ozzie” Arndt, Waseca County
Tony Thompson, Cottonwood County

Freeborn Soil Health Team, Freeborn County
Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance (GBERBA), (Multi-county)

Don and Becky Waskosky, Blue Earth County
Crystal Waters Project, Blue Earth County

Peter’s Family Farms – Chuck and Nick Peters
Drainage water management, nitrogen bioreactors, and soil health practices in the Seven Mile Creek watershed near St. Peter

In recent years, Chuck and Nick have utilized various water quality best management practices on their operation to help improve water quality and storage. The Peters have implemented cover crops and reduced tillage practices on the majority of their acres as well as adding small grains to their rotation. In 2015 they installed a large drainage water management (DWM) project on their farm. Using multiple inline control structures and three edge of field boxes they can implement DWM on a 95-acre field directly across from their main farm location.

Additionally, their DWM feeds into a wood chip bioreactor. This project is considered locally to be the ideal set up for how DWM and bioreactors should be used together. Because of the way it was designed almost 100 percent of tile water from the DWM is treated by the bioreactor. Nick has been active with the Seven Mile Creek Watershed core team since its inception. The management changes Chuck and Nick have made to their operation show their continued commitment to improve water quality and water storage in the Seven Mile Creek Watershed and the Minnesota River Basin as a whole.

For more information:

Seven Mile Creek Watershed Partnership – https://www.7-milecreek.org/

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Rich Enger
Water Storage and Wellhead Protection in Watonwan County, near St. James

Rich Enger has worked for decades with his neighbors to protect St. James drinking water supply by securing conservation easements that help to store and filter water. Enger, who holds one of the four RIM wellhead protection agreements outside St. James, has encouraged his neighbors near St. James Creek to do the same. His neighbor Curt Peterson enrolled 108 acres in RIM. “It was always just kind of marginal land. It was pasture. Years ago they tried to farm it. There’s good ground in there, but that part of Butterfield Creek had never been straightened, so it always flooded.” Peterson added that he wanted to keep the land for hunting.

Projects include two Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program parcels encompassing 108 acres, a riparian buffer strip and four wellhead protection easements. Over 340 acres have been protected.

Collectively, the easements result in a significant amount of water storage, help to protect St. James’ drinking water supply,  provide wildlife habitat, hunting grounds and recreational open space for the community.  Enger continues to work on conservation projects while serving on the Watonwan Soil & Water Conservation Board of Supervisors.

For More Information
RIM safeguards St. James drinking water


CREP lands in DWSMA

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David “Ozzie” Arndt 
Wetland and prairie restoration advocate in Waseca County, near Waldorf, MN

David (Ozzie) Arndt has transformed his property in rural Waseca County into an exemplary regional water storage case study. He restored a large wetland and adjacent prairie and has planted thousands of trees.

He serves as a regional ambassador explaining the benefits of wetland, prairie and woodland restoration for water storage and water quality protection. He reaches out to his neighbors and the broader watershed, gives tours of his property for regional and statewide groups. Scott Roemhildt, Regional Director for the Minnesota DNR noted that “Ozzie recognized the importance of water storage, and began implementing practices decades ago, long before it was on most people’s radar.  The water storage project on his property is functional and beautiful.” Ozzie is a water storage trailblazer and citizen leader in the Le Sueur River Watershed Network.

For more information:

Le Sueur River Watershed Network – https://lesueurriverwaters.wixsite.com/network

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Tony Thompson, Willow Lake Farms
Diverse practices to slow and filter flows and protect Fish Lake in Cottonwood County near Windom, MN

Tony Thompson of farms 3,500 acres in a ridge-till corn soybean rotation in Cottonwood County. He lives along the shores of Fish Lake and has installed an extraordinary range of best management practices that help to store water and ensure water running off his property is of high quality.

Practices include buffered the waters with CRP, closed open tile intakes, explored organics, focused on reducing tillage and ridge till, does precise fertilizer placement with banding fertilizer, and has installed nitrogen bioreactors. He has worked with his neighbors and local conservation partners in the Fish Lake Watershed on broader water quality improvement practices, championing practices that slow flows and filter pollutants. Tony has initiated and hosted the Agro-Ecology Summit for over a decade and regularly invites college and high school students to his farm for environmental and agricultural education. Cottonwood SWCD staff noted that “Tony Thompson is a leader in conservation education and continues his wise use of the land in all his farming practices.”

For more information:


Conservationist of the Year, Cottonwood County 2008



Watonwan River Watershed https://mnscu.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Cascade/index.html?appid=079d9eb15cae4bcd83 54b3f2b8e4af69

Willow Lake Farm, Windom, Minnesota by Amanda Swinhart

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Freeborn Soil Health Team
Sharing information and increasing soil health practice adoption across southern Minnesota

The Freeborn Area Soil Health Team is made up of local businesses, SWCD employees, NRCS employees, local regenerative farmers, and other agricultural professionals. The team meets 10 months per year to plan events and field days where farmers and landowners can learn about the value of their soil health. They facilitate local collaboration that encourages, educates, and demonstrates how to improve our soil health and water quality while improving productivity, profitability, and sustainability of our natural resources.

The Freeborn Soil Health Team has been a statewide leader raising awareness about soil health practices across southern Minnesota. They are known for connecting farmers and conservation professionals, bringing in nationally renowned speakers, creating innovative forums like the I-90 tours, hosting field tours and many diverse educational events that bring people together to learn about soil health practices. They make the link between healthier soils, water storage, cleaner water, and long term economic vitality. They foster a shared leadership model propelled by Myles Elsen (NRCS) and Lindsey Zeitler (Freeborn SWCD).

For more information:



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Greater Blue Earth River Basin Alliance (GBERBA)
Regional joint powers organization fosters collaboration, innovation and increased implementation of conservation practices across 10 county river basin

This organization is a Joint Powers Organization consisting of ten member Counties and SWCDs encompassing the Blue Earth, Le Sueur, and Watonwan River Watersheds. Its mission is to lead in the implementation and promotion of economically viable watershed activities through the combined efforts of local partners and GBERBA. This group meets regularly to discuss and act on implementing innovative and effective water storage management solutions. They have leveraged resources by applying for and receiving substantial state and federal grants to facilitate implementation of best management practices.

Most recently GBERBA has been awarded grants for Multipurpose Drainage Management, Alternative Tile Intakes, Cover Crops, and Drinking Water Supply Protection. Regular meetings serve as a platform to develop and expand relationships between state agencies, counties, and SWCDs. They have showed innovation for implementing projects on a watershed scale long before One Watershed One Plan was initiated. They have used the resources available to them efficiently to promote conservation that all have a water storage and treatment benefit. This shows that GBERBA has made a tremendous improvement on the area rivers and lakes by storing more water on the landscape.

For more information:  https://www.gberba.org

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Crystal Waters Project
Citizen group promotes water storage by building diverse partnerships

Crystal Waters Project is a citizen-led group based in Crystal Lake, MN that are working to improve water quality in Crystal, Loon and Lily lakes.  From the onset, the goal of the group was to create partnerships and bring together disparate stakeholders to improve water quality. They actively promote water storage and aggressively partner with others to achieve this goal.

The group has worked with city residents, high school organizations, and girl scouts to plant and maintain four rain gardens in Robinson Park. Hundreds of feet of lakeshore have also been restored at the park, slowing the flow of water into the lake and reducing erosion. They have worked on rain barrel campaigns, rake the lake program, and instituted a “Landscaping for Crystal Waters” program to promote healthy lakeshore restorations. The group has also worked on water storage practices upstream in County Ditch 56, helping to finance the installation of an iron/sand filters where the ditch flows into the City of Lake Crystal. It was the first in the state to be added to an agricultural drainage ditch, and it was designed to reduce the amount of phosphorus that reaches the lake. They have also hosted a “Soil Health Party” where area farmers were invited to learn about minimum tilling practices and cover crops. Since its inception in 2012, Crystal Waters Project has partnered with government agencies, community service groups, individual citizens, and area farmers to educate, encourage, and most importantly, take action on improving water storage and water quality in the area’s watershed and beyond.

For more information:


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Don and Becky Waskosky
Citizen advocates that live along the rapidly eroding Le Sueur River share their story and advocate for change

Don and Becky Waskosky have made a significant impact raising awareness about the need for more water storage in our region by telling their story in countless meetings, newspaper articles, TV spots, podcasts, videos and other media channels. They live along the Le Sueur River and their home and neighborhood is threatened by rapidly eroding river banks. Their story makes a compelling case for the need for more water storage.

They are articulate spokespeople that share the human side of the impacts of flashier flows on all landowners and are extremely knowledgeable about watershed dynamics and environmental policy and management. Their speaking engagements have included statewide conferences such as the EQB Minnesota Environmental Congress and the Water Storage Forum. They are citizen leaders in the Le Sueur River Watershed Network, Minnesota River Congress, and Izaak Walton League.

For more information:

Video –  blob:https://lesueurriverwaters.wixsite.com/a2d1da22-606c-49e7-b4d8-0048abe4f082


Podcast – https://soundcloud.com/user-448596268/becky-and-don-waskosky

Articles – https://museumonmainstreet.org/content/washouts-le-sueur-becky-and-don-waskosky

Le Sueur River Watershed Network – https://lesueurriverwaters.wixsite.com/network

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Water Creativity Challenege


Gareden, age 7
Fishing on the Blue Earth River

Gareden with Fish, Water Creativity Winner

Grace, 5th Grade
“Shoreline” Pencil and Charcol Sketch

Grace pencil and charcole sketch water creativity challenge winner