Groups work to clean up Big Sioux

© 2018-Brookings Register

SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Groups in South Dakota are trying to clean up the sediment and bacteria from farms, fields, neighborhoods and businesses that drain into the Big Sioux River and make it unsafe for activities such as swimming, kayaking and canoeing.

The Argus Leader reported the city of Sioux Falls spends millions on watershed improvement, and the Natural Resource Conservation Service has cash incentives for farmers to be more water-friendly. The East Dakota Water Development District also monitors water quality along the watershed.

Friends of the Big Sioux River plans to host workshops to educate the public on ways to decrease pollution, including reducing lawn size, building rain barrels and picking up after pets.

"We're people who basically got tired of bringing visitors to our city, going down to see our number one attraction, then coming back and saying 'oh, it looks great, but why does it smell so bad?,'" Dana Loseke, a chairman of the group, told Minnehaha County Commissioners recently.

The group hopes to see the river swimmable by 2025.

East Dakota Water Development Director Jay Gilbertson doubts the goal is attainable.

"Swimmable is a laudable goal, but I think it is overly optimistic. It's taken a century to get us to where we are today. It's getting better, but we remain a long way away from being able to improve those numbers," Gilbertson said.

Larger measures that would help cut down on river pollution include low-impact development, where developers work to fit the natural landscape, and water-friendly agriculture practices such as switching to untilled soil, which reduces sediment runoff.

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