September 25, 2020 at 1:18 p.m.
The concept of congregating many counties, water resources personnel and water protection plans into one entity was begun with adoption of guiding principles by the state Board of Soil and Water Resources in 2017.
The first workshop for local involvement was held July 2018.
The state Board of Water and Soil Resources is slated to review plans submitted for watersheds all over Minnesota, and give them a thumbs-up or down by October 25.
Chisago County is the majority of land mass making up the watershed that feeds into the non-metro area of the St Croix River. (See map.)
The money provided through the state to develop this One Watershed One Plan (1W1P) program is set to expire in early 2021 and the local guidelines and structure start functioning with final 1W1P adoption in February.
Chisago County’s Water Plan sunsets as of 2023.
Chisago County Commissioner Chris DuBose has been doing legwork on bringing the 1W1P group together, along with about 18 other people representing this watershed territory. Up until social distance and stay-at-home orders they’d been meeting at Wyoming’s Giese Memorial Library.
“It makes sense to work together,” he remarked, talking about issues shared by all the entities within in the watershed. Issues identified in the BWSR Operating Procedures documents include: habitat loss, encroachment, altered hydrology, ecosystem quality, groundwater quality and quantity, St Croix River and Lake St Croix fluctuations, and data needs from all points in the watershed.
What one area does upstream in the watershed certainly ends up affecting conditions downstream.
Plus; DuBose continued, the hope is by having a large collective effort, more federal monies can be leveraged from the Clean Water Act.
Various stand alone projects that may have had to wait for a time, can be incorporated into large scale comprehensive undertakings. DuBose sees many smaller goals that have merit but individually the cost and scope can be a hold-up. By doing things as part of a big picture, the workload is shared while the impact is multiplied.
At this time, because Chisago is such a major piece of the watershed, there are five slots on 1W1P preserved for Chisago County. DuBose will have one, SWCD will get one, Comfort Lake Forest Lake Watershed District managers will send somebody, and there’s plans to name a member of the current Lake Improvement District Board. DuBose said he’s hoping somebody from the agriculture community in the northern part of Chisago County will want to apply for a slot, but it will be a County Board decision when all the applicants’ names are presented.
The Soil and Water Conservation District, based in North Branch, has accepted the role as fiscal agent.
Commissioner DuBose has worked closely with Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter getting input on drafting of cooperative agreements that will provide Chisago County with a real presence. Contract language matters when it comes to making a case for funding up against powerhouse counties like Ramsey and Washington. Commissioner DuBose said he has learned what doesn’t work to the county’s advantage from earlier pitfalls encountered in other multi-county contracts. This initial phase of 1W1P is designed for 10 years out.