By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
Houston County became the first in the state of Minnesota to adopt a resolution to implement the Root River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan.
After several years of work on the plan called “One Watershed, One Plan,” implementing the resolution will help the county receive grant monies from the state among several other factors.
“It seems like a no-brainer to me,” said commissioner Scott Connor.
The resolution is the beginning steps in the adoption of the plan. The county also agreed to enter into a joint powers agreement with several counties who make up the Root River Watershed district.
With over one million acres, the district will be among the largest in the state and the first of its kind to consider the entire watershed when making decisions.
Dave Walter and Bob Scanlan, director and assistant director with the Soil and Water Conservation District came before the board to answer any questions regarding the plan.
Thirteen local government units will now decide if they wish to be part of the plan.
No indications were given of any local government units who oppose the One Watershed, One Plan, plan.
“The planning document will now go to the 13 local government boards to decide individually in the next four months on whether to adopt it,” said Walter.
Starting as a drainage ditch in eastern Mower County, the Root River flows eastwardly through much geologic diversity, including glacial till, karst topography and bluff land. In Fillmore County, the Root River disappears underground near Forestville State Park before resurfacing near Preston and eventually emptying into the Mississippi River near Hokah.
In September, a policy committee which has consisted of elected representatives from each of the local government units, hosted two public hearings on the draft plan.
On Dec. 14, SWCD’s Donna Rasmussen and Jennifer Ronnenberg presented the final Root River 1W1P document to the full board of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources and the state’s Clean Water Council.
Officials agreed to quarterly meetings for the policy committee with the first meeting tentatively set for March 20.
One of five 1W1P pilot projects in Minnesota, Root River 1W1P has involved planning partners representing a broad range of stakeholders, including local governments, state agencies, community members and organizations.
Fillmore SWCD has led the process and Winona SWCD will serve as the fiscal agent.
The BWSR has led the statewide program aiming to reduce Minnesota’s more than 200 water-management plans based on political boundaries to less than 100 plans created on watershed boundaries.
Watershed-based plans have the potential to allow for streamlined funding and administration to maximize efficiency, minimize redudancy and prevent duplication of efforts both on the local and state levels.
Scanlan said the document was reviewed by county attorney Sam Jandt, and that he felt the document was sound.
The document won’t impact any local land use plans or zoning ordinances.
Several timelines are put into place should any governing agency wish to remove themselves from the One Watershed, One Plan.