Riparian Buffer Management
Through federal and local funding, the Big Sioux River Watershed Project is striving to restore riparian buffer areas along the Big Sioux River and tributaries between Watertown and Brandon. A riparian buffer is an area of land adjacent to a stream bank which is vegetated with grasses and or trees/shrubs. The purpose of the riparian buffer is to filter runoff from the surrounding landscape. The main goal of the riparian buffer programs is to enhance grasses within the buffer areas, thereby eliminating livestock grazing and row cropping from these areas. More information on the programs available to landowners is described below.


The Big Sioux River Conservation Easement Program (BSRCEP) is designed to provide a financial incentive to landowners to restrict cattle grazing and row cropping along stream banks. EDWDD has partnered with Northern Prairies Land Trust (NPLT) to make the BSRCEP available to landowners. The goal of the BSRCEP is to reduce sediment and fecal coliform bacteria loading into the Big Sioux River Watershed by 1) removing activities which are conducive to pollutant loadings and 2) restoring grasses within the buffer area to provide a filter area for runoff. Terms of the conservation easement can be either 30-year or perpetual. A conservation management plan will be provided to provide information to the landowner regarding maintaining the riparian buffer. The land maybe used in any manner consistent with the conservation managment plan. Buffer widths range between 75 and 150 feet depending on many factors. Payment for the conservation easement will be determined by the adjusted assessed land value (AALV). The AALV is determined by multiplying the assessed valuation per acre by a county wide factor to reflect true market value. A pay schedule has been developed to prorate the percentage of the AALV offered depending on the term of the conservation easement and the presence or absence of any underlying contracts. Contact the District Manager or Pat Anderson with Northern Prairies Land Trust for more information.


The Riparian Area Management (RAM) program is designed to: (A) accompany an existing USDA buffer management program or (B) accommodate those areas not qualifying for a USDA buffer management program because of canopy cover. A landowner enrolling acreage along a stream bank into a USDA program such as CP-30 may apply for the RAM program to help square up areas along the stream. If for any reasons the land under application for a USDA program does not qualify for that program, a landowner can apply for the RAM program to enroll a riparian buffer along an impaired stream. The annual rental rate for the RAM is the Farm Service Agency county rental rate for CP-30. The local conservation district office will administer the yearly rental rate to the landowner. Contract terms for the RAM program are 20 years. Contact your local county conservation office or the District Manager for more information.


Fencing materials for the BSRCEP and RAM programs are available at 100% of the material cost. Alternate water sources can be cost shared at 75% grant and 25% landowner.


For situations where a landowner owns property on both side of a stream and has enrolled land into a riparian buffer program, the landowner can apply for assistance installing rock crossings. The purpose of a rock crossing is to provide a path for cattle to cross the stream from pasture to pasture with minimal damage to the stream bank. The landowner may be eligible to receive a 75% cost share for a rock crossing.

Impaired segments include the entire stretch of the Big Sioux River between Watertown and Brandon, Willow Creek, Stray Horse Creek, Hidewood Creek, Peg Munky Run, North Deer Creek, Six Mile Creek, Spring Creek, Flandreau Creek, Jack Moore Creek, Pipestone Creek, Split Rock Creek, Beaver Creek and Skunk Creek.