(Willmar MN-) For not having its own official identity among Minnesota’s 80 major watersheds, the Hawk Creek Watershed Project (HCWP) could well be considered an overachiever in terms of water quality protection and improvement efforts.
Over the past three years, HCWP has captured more than 25 percent of state and federal grants and loans in competition with all other watersheds. Over a 20-year period it has turned $16 million in funds into more than 1,700 water quality projects in a primarily agricultural landscape.
Hawk Creek originates from Eagle Lake north of Willmar and flows about 65 miles to the Minnesota River, encompassing 623,424 acres (974 square miles) in major portions of Renville, Chippewa, and Kandiyohi counties. Officially, the Hawk Creek Watershed is a part of the Yellow Medicine River Watershed. Both streams enter the Minnesota River almost across from each other about eight miles southeast of Granite Falls.
The three counties created the HCWP in 1997 for: “Improving the water quality/quantity issues in the watershed, while also promoting a healthy agricultural, industrial, and recreational-based economy for the region.” In 2013, the counties formalized the organization in a joint powers agreement.
Staff and leadership have been key to the project’s longevity and success. The first coordinator, Loren Engelby, is now the agricultural inspector for Kandiyohi County. The next two coordinators, Darrell Schindler and Cory Netland, now work for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.