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Nobles Co. supports HLWD water plan

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WORTHINGTON -- The Heron Lake Watershed District passed through two of four hurdles Tuesday morning when it received approval from both Nobles and Murray county boards of commissioners for its new 10-year Watershed Management Plan. The plan includes the creation of a Water Management District (WMD), which could be implemented to raise addition funds for the watershed.

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A WMD, a provision allowed by state statute, creates an optional funding source for watershed districts. HLWD included the provision in its new plan as a way to potentially provide a secure funding source for water quality improvement projects.

The HLWD is second in the state for securing grant dollars, collecting more than $1.6 million in recent years to conduct a watershed management program for the district. The district encompasses portions of Nobles, Murray, Cottonwood and Jackson counties.

Without Clean Water Partnership funds and the increasing challenge to secure grants, the WMD provides an alternative to collect money from local landowners to complete water quality improvement projects.

Jan Voit, HLWD administrator, appeared before Nobles County Commissioners Tuesday to explain why the WMD is included in the new 10-year watershed plan and ensure the board the taxing district would not be implemented unless projects are identified that need funding.

The WMD would collect a per-parcel fee of 50 cents per month from properties that generate water runoff. The WMD would raise approximately $50,000 per year for the watershed district, which could be used throughout the entire WMD, from Corabelle and Fulda lakes in southern Murray County to South Heron Lake in Jackson County. The WMD could raise a maximum of $200,000.

"That (money) could be used to match grants and potentially double the amount of money (available)," said Voit. "We would like to put the Water Management District in our plan, but that doesn't mean we're going to turn it on. It saves us from amending our plan two, three or four years down the road."

Voit also said the district would not implement the WMD unless it was "something that absolutely had to be done."

Nobles County Environmental Services Officer Wayne Smith and Nobles Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Ed Lenz both voiced support for the HLWD's Watershed Management Plan at Tuesday's meeting.

"We've been involved in it from the very beginning -- the plan is a good plan," said Smith.

Commissioner David Benson encouraged his fellow board members to support the plan.

"I've been very pleased with what I've seen the Heron Lake Watershed District do," Benson said. "I'm very much in support. I think the Heron Lake Watershed District has been an example of incredible access to other funds."

In other action, the board:

* Tabled acceptance of the low bid for the bridge replacement projects on Nobles County State Aid Highway 1 and 14, pending the reopening of state government.

Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder said the low bid of $1,047,410.70, submitted by Midwest Contracting of Marshall, was approximately $131,000 cheaper than the lone bid submitted earlier this summer. Still, the bid is more than the engineer's estimate for the work by nearly $162,000. There were two other bids submitted for the project in this second round.

Once the state government adopts its budget, Schnieder said he would work to secure the bonding money for Nobles County so the construction projects can begin as soon as possible.

"I think the last thing anyone would want is to have to wait another year," said Commissioner David Benson, who said he would be favorable to having a special meeting to accept the low bid once the state government shutdown ends.

* Received its annual update from Robin Weis and Joanne Bartosh on the RSVP program in Nobles County. In 2010, the program had 445 volunteers log 41,786 hours of work in Nobles County -- equivalent to a savings of $417,860 for the county and various non-profit agencies that benefit from the volunteers.

* Rescinded a motion approved at the July 5 board meeting that gave Sheriff Kent Wilkening statutory authority to sign agreements related to the emergency communications upgrade. Wilkening will need to present any grant agreements to the county board before they can be signed.

* Approved a lease agreement with the city of Worthington for use of a parking lot at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street. The five-year agreement includes an option for a five-year extension, and will cost the county $4,000 per year. Of that fee, a portion will be set aside in a special fund each year to help cover the cost of capital improvements.

* Declared two 1997 pickup trucks as surplus property, including a three-quarter-ton Dodge pickup from the Environmental Services department and a Chevy pickup from the parks department. In addition, a 2002 and 2004 Ford Taurus from the county's carpool fleet were declared surplus property. The vehicles will either be sold on bid or at auction.

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Julie Buntjer
Julie Buntjer joined the Daily Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington and graduate of Worthington High School, then-Worthington Community College and South Dakota State University, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. At the Daily Globe, Julie covers the agricultural beat, as well as Nobles County government, watersheds, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys needlework (cross-stitch and hardanger embroidery), reading, travel, fishing and spending time with family. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at www.farmbleat.areavoices.com.
(507) 376-7330
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