Dakota County officials are asking the public to weigh in on a new plan that aims to encourage voluntary measures to reduce nitrate pollution in rural parts of the county.

Nitrate, a naturally occurring compound used in fertilizers, has been found in water sources throughout Minnesota, according to the state health department. It can be harmful if consumed at high levels.

Key goals of Dakota County's Agricultural Chemical Reduction Effort (ACRE) include limiting the number of households that use private wells and exceed nitrate drinking water guidelines, plus ensuring that no public water source exceeds or is projected to exceed the nitrate drinking water guideline in the next 10 years. Another goal is for local farmers to put practices in place to reduce or eliminate agricultural chemicals that reach groundwater.

To reach those goals, the county plans to use a variety of measures including increasing the percentage of farmers planting cover and perennial crops — which keep nitrates from leaching into groundwater — exploring financial incentives to farmers for maintaining water quality and advocating for better internet access in rural parts of the county.

"We're hoping [improved internet access] will provide easier access to information to help them make decisions," said Valerie Neppl, Dakota County groundwater protection supervisor.

With better internet access, farmers could attend online classes or certification programs related to new strategies for protecting groundwater, she said.

Residents can submit comments on the plan through Sept. 6 by visiting www.dakotacounty.us and searching for ACRE. Comments can be emailed to groundwater@co.dakota.mn.us.

Erin Adler

Coon Rapids

Splash pad coming to wave pool

A new splash pad with fountains is coming to the Bunker Beach water park in Bunker Hills Regional Park.

The Anoka County Board at its June 12 meeting approved a $140,000 contract with Commercial Recreation Specialists of Verona, Wis., to build the amenity. Construction is set to begin in September and the pad is expected to be ready for the 2023 swimming season, according to Anoka County Parks Director Jeff Perry.

Parks officials removed a giant sandbox and aging playground equipment near the Lazy River and a zero-depth pool to make way for the new attraction. A park analysis conducted in 2018, combined with public input, identified the need for another water feature, Perry said.

"We are excited about adding a new feature to an already extensive water park," he said.

Tim Harlow

Washington County

Riverfront park to get boat launch fixes

The Washington County Board recently signed off on renovations to the boat launch at St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park with plans calling for repairs to the deteriorating concrete ramp, dredging of the harbor and resurfacing the launch's parking lot.

The heavily used launchhas seen few improvements since 1996, when the former Control Data Employee Recreation Area was renamed and incorporated into the county's parks system.

The work by Sunram Construction is expected to begin this fall. The cost of the $1.65 million project partly will be covered by $700,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act.

St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park sits along the St. Croix River in the southeastern part of the county.

Matt McKinney