Elm Creek Watershed Project

Field days collage

Further water quality improvement in the Minnesota River Basin will require collaborative solutions. The Elm Creek watershed in Martin County, MN provides unique opportunities for research, outreach, and demonstrations. These include: 

Research and demonstration projects

  • Perennial bioenergy crops,
  • Nurse cropping for native perennials
  • Restored wetlands
  • Drainage water management
  • Stream channel and floodplain rehabilitation
  • Landowner adoption
  • Outreach efforts
  • Walk-n-Talk field days

CINRAM has partnered with Rural Advantage, the Martin County Soil and Water Conservation District, University of Minnesota Extension, and local landowners to find collaborative solutions to local water quality issues while supporting rural economies and clean energy development.& The Elm Creek Advisory Committee was formed to facilitate discussion between stakeholders. At meetings the latest research is shared, and landowners and agency staff provide valuable information on practical issues to help guide priorities for research and project development.

Elm Creek watershed project overview poster

Stream Channel Restoration

Elm Creek channel restoration

A section of Elm Creek was restored to demonstrate cost-effective methods that can be implemented to: 1) reduce channel erosion 2) enhance channel stability 3) enhance riparian vegetation and 4) reduce sediment load.


Agroforestry Research

Alley cropping for biomass and bioenergy

Perennial crops can provide bioenergy feedstocks and water quality benefits on sensitive riparian sites. Hybrid poplar and willow as well as native grasses and grass-forb-legume mixes are being evaluated together in alley cropping systems.

Drainage water management

Construction and installation are underway for a treatment wetland, two bioreactors, and Agri Drain control structures to treat tile drainage water for excess nutrients. The research will compare the effectiveness of these BMPs for nitrate reduction

Landowner adoption

Adoption of best management practices is key to water quality improvement. Surveys and interviews of agricultural landowners have been and are being conducted to determine farmers’ willingness to grow perennial bioenergy crops and to understand the interest in, and the barriers to adoption of, saturated buffers in riparian corridors.