History of the UBS River Watershed Project

The Upper Big Sioux River Watershed Project (UBSRWP) is a locally-led project with financial assistance from an Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act Section 319 grant provided through the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources and sponsored by the City of Watertown. The project is a continuation of the original Lake Kampeska Watershed Project that resulted from a diagnostic / feasibility study (SD DENR 1992) implemented by volunteers from the Kampeska Chapter, Izaak Walton League of America. The name was changed to the Upper Big Sioux River Watershed Project when the Lake Pelican Water Project District joined the participating partners following completion of the Lake Pelican Diagnostic / Feasibility Study (SD DENR 1995).

Studies conducted from 1989 through the spring of 1993 on Lake Kampeska and from 1993 to 1995 on the AGNPS computer simulation model were used to evaluate nutrient and sediment contributions from cropland and Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs). The Pacific Southwest Interagency Committee (PSIAC) sediment evaluation method was used to determine sediment loads from rangeland. The direct volume method to determine sediment amounts was used to calculate sediment contributions from channels, gullies and streambanks. The average phosphorus concentration in the soils was used to estimate phosphorus contributions from rangeland, gullies, channels and streambanks.

The major conclusions of the Upper Big Sioux River Basin Study (PL566 USDA 2000) were

1. Ephemeral and classic gully erosion is the primary source of sediment. Additionally, streambank erosion in some subwatersheds is a major source of sediment that is contributed directly into the stream system.

2. Sheet and rill erosion and classic gully erosion contribute the majority of the phosphorus. Animal feeding operations, classic gully erosion, and rangeland are the major sources of dissolved phosphorus.

3. The deterioration of riparian areas along channels and streambanks, a result of livestock grazing pressure or the intensity of cropping practices, accelerates gully formation and reduces the sediment and nutrient filtering effects of vegetation.

Geography and Economics

The Upper Big Sioux watershed is located in the Prairie Coteau region of eastern South Dakota. This unusual land formation was caused by glacial action some two to fifteen thousand years ago. Lake Kampeska is a 5,075-acre lake with an average depth of 11 feet. Lake Pelican covers 2,796 acres and has an average depth of 6.5 feet. The Big Sioux River delivers ninety percent of the nutrient and sediment loads entering the lakes. Shoreline erosion also contributes to sediment and nutrient loading.

A combined total of four state parks, one county park, four city parks, two private parks, and nine other lake access areas are located on the lake shorelines. The remaining shoreline consists of residential, agricultural and business properties. The Regional Economic Development value is estimated to be $29.74 per user day for all recreation forms. Recreational use collected from creel surveys conducted by the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department and visitation records from the city, county and state parks around the lakes indicates 133,157 user days per year. The annual impact of recreation to Watertown and the surrounding region is estimated to be $3,960,089. (PL-566 Study,USDA, May 2000)

Grants (EPA Section 319 and State and Local Match)


EPA Grant

Other Fed.


Local Match

Kampeska Grant #1 (1994-1999) $250,000
UBSRW Grants #2 & #3 (1996-2002)
UBSRW Grant #4 (2001-2005)
UBSRW Grant #5 (2005-2008)
UBSRW Grant #6 (2008-2012)
Discovery Center (EPA I&E) Grant (2012-2013)
UBSRW Grant #7 (2012-2016)
UBSRW Grant #8 (2016-2019)