Alexandria gets $65,000 grant to study its biggest watershed
The goal is to protect water quality and reduce flooding.
ALEXANDRIA – The city of Alexandria received good news last week about protecting water quality and reducing flooding.
It was selected to receive a $65,000 planning grant through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Stormwater, Wastewater and Community Resilience program.
Using the latest computer modeling technology, the city will be able to study the impact climate change is having on the city’s biggest watershed, the southeast watershed, according to City Engineer Tim Schoonhoven.
The drainage area of the watershed includes 2,985 acres and stretches all the way from Scenic Heights Road NE to 50th Avenue. The existing computer model for the watershed hasn’t been updated since the 1990s, Schoonhoven said.
The grant will update the model with new software to evaluate changes to the 100-year floodplain boundaries along the corridor caused by land use changes and newly revised rainfall intensity tables, according to Schoonhoven.
A second computer model, P-8, will examine how much phosphorus is getting into the watershed and identify opportunities to improve the water quality.
The MPCA has set aside $350,000 for grants that support climate planning. This past December, the city council agreed to apply for funds that would cover 90% of the computer modeling cost of $65,000. The city will contribute at least a 10% match.
Local matched funds will come from the Nature Conservancy, the Douglas County Soil and Water Conservation District, Douglas County Water Legacy Fund, Douglas County Flood Board and the city’s Stormwater Utility Fund, according to Schoonhoven.
The city also approved an engineering agreement with Widseth for grant writing services of $3,500.
More about watersheds and climate change
The following are some highlights from Alexandria’s
14-page application for the grant.
Alexandria encompasses 11,456 acres of land and water. The management of this nearly 3,000-acre watershed corridor is critically important, as it encompasses over 25 percent of the city.
The Alexandria Southeast Watershed Resiliency Planning project will identify areas of flooding potential that have changed from the original 1990s flood zone delineations. By using new software and current climate projections, it will provide a thorough understanding how major storms will impact this watershed corridor.
Minnesota's climate is changing, and substantial warming is predicted, especially during winters, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Alexandria’s southeast watershed is part of the Long Prairie River watershed. Temperatures have consistently risen in this major watershed by 7 degrees, from 1895 to 2023. Each decade during this time, the mean temperature has risen by 0.42 degrees.
Nine of the 10 warmest winters on record have occurred between 1986 and 2021, according to the DNR.
Rainfall in the Long Prairie watershed has increased at a mean of 0.68 inches per year from 1895 to 2023. It has increased more rapidly since 2009 in the watershed, with a mean rate of 0.67 inches from 1895 to 1922, to a mean rate of 0.71 inches between 2009 and today.
The decades ahead will bring warmer winters and nights, and larger rainfalls, according to the DNR.
All of this data shows the need to revise the existing 1990s computer modeling of the Alexandria Southeast Watershed Resiliency Plan, the application says.
The reliability of the existing models is further reduced by the development that has occurred, or will occur, in the area.
The new plan will protect the health of the Alexandria community in many ways:
Climate change will impact human health by changing the severity or frequency of health problems that are already affected by these factors. It will create unprecedented or unanticipated health problems, or threats, in places or times of the year where they have not previously occurred, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Health problems that are increased by heat include heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia, as the body can’t change the way it reacts to heat quick enough. Even small differences from seasonal average temperatures are associated with increased illness and death.
Temperature extremes can also worsen chronic conditions, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, according to the World Health Organization.
Increased precipitation and temperature can increase risk of flooding, which will have detrimental human health impacts caused by mold, and asthma, along with the transmission of diseases.
Alexandria has a population of 14,335 and includes 26.4 percent who are vulnerable, as they are over 65 years or under 5 years of age. Of these persons, 615 have a disability, such as hearing, vision or otherwise. Health service delivery, water, sanitation, and hygiene are city services that impact vulnerable populations and will be affected by flooding.
The Alexandria Southeast Watershed Resiliency Plan will evaluate changes to the 100-year floodplain boundaries along the corridor. The new plan will enable the city to protect the community – and vulnerable residents – from increased health risks associated with flooding and stormwater resiliency.