WORTHINGTON - A water management plan that combines input from six southwest Minnesota counties, their Soil and Water Conservation Districts and two watershed districts was presented for public review Tuesday with hearings in both Edgerton and Worthington.
Dubbed One Watershed-One Plan (1W1P) for the Missouri River Basin, the plan comprises 1,700 square miles, 25 cities and towns and about 30,000 residents. Over the past two years, representatives from the Rock, Nobles, Jackson, Murray, Pipestone and Lincoln county boards, their SWCDs and the Okabena-Ocheda and Kanaranzi-Little Rock watershed districts have worked together to develop a management plan aimed at improving the health of our lakes, rivers and streams.
Houston Engineering assisted the group in developing the plan, which is targeted for implementation in 2020.
On Tuesday, landowners weighed in on the plan. At the Worthington meeting, they were mostly concerned about how the plan might impact farmland drainage.
Kris Guentzel, an engineer with Houston Engineering who led the meeting, said there isn’t enough money to fix every ditch system to improve drainage, but there may be some financial assistance available.
Dan Livdahl, Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District Administrator and 1W1P work group coordinator, said the water management plan doesn’t specifically talk about improving drainage, but there are land management practices that could be funded to improve water filtration.
“Terraces, waterways and basins are storing the water and should be reducing the amount of water flowing off the landscape,” Livdahl said. “Your drainage systems then should receive a little less water.”
Livdahl also noted that conservation tillage, buffer strips and cover crops improve soil structure so there is less water running off of those fields.
“This plan is not made to deal with the 100-year rains we get every year,” added Nobles County Commissioner Gene Metz, who also serves on the 1W1P work group.
The collaborative water management plan was based, in part, on each entity’s existing plan, as well as Total Maximum Daily Load and Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy (WRAPS) reports.
“We looked at how much the system can take and came up with a list of issues we wanted to address,” Guentzel said. Since the work group formed in April 2017, stakeholders have worked on the plan with Houston Engineering. Public meetings were conducted in late summer 2017 in Worthington and Pipestone for people to identify water management issues important to them.
Five local resources were identified - surface water, ground water, land stewardship, fish and wildlife habitat and unique natural features, and local knowledge and technical capacity.
“We had 65 issues we brought to the public for vote and 27 of those made it to our priority list,” Guentzel said.
From the priority list, the work group developed a draft plan that was open for public review last December. Comments submitted during the review period were considered and the plan was updated in advance of this week’s hearings.
Guentzel said the next step is to present the plan to the regional Board of Water and Soil Resources board, and eventually advance to the state agency for approval.
The reason for creating a multi-county, multi-watershed plan is for counties to work together toward common goals to improve water flowing to the Missouri River. The collaboration also means reduced costs to counties, which in the past each had to complete their own water management plan.
Guentzel noted that while counties will still get funding individually, having the 1W1P completed will lead to additional state dollars to implement larger scale projects within the Missouri River basin.
“If we pool all of our local dollars together, what can we do in this planning region?” Guentzel asked. “We have about 230 practices we could do in a 10-year period.”
“It’s quite a savings from having each entity write a water plan,” added Metz. “In the long run, it’s still going to take landowner participation (to do projects like) waterways and sediment basins.”
To view the 1W1P draft, visit noblesswcd.org/one-watershed-one-plan.