Letter: Sen. Sparks building legacy for water resources

Published 9:05 am Friday, December 18, 2015

In 2004, I moved to Austin to start work at the Mower Soil & Water Conservation District. It was the same year that the Austin area experienced its most extensive flooding on record.

During that hectic year, I got to know State Sen. Dan Sparks — who was early in his career of public service at the time — quite well as he provided strong leadership while working with local citizens to bring millions of dollars to the area for flood mitigation.

Sen. Sparks since has built an impressive legacy in water resource leadership by working hard to support a wide array of projects and initiatives focused on reducing flooding, improving water quality and restoring wetlands/habitat by providing state funding and strengthening partnerships.

Email newsletter signup

This month, Sen. Sparks received a well-deserved, statewide recognition for his work on water issues within our area and the State of Minnesota. He was named Legislator of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts.

Our staff at the Mower SWCD and the Cedar River Watershed District are deeply grateful that this special award was given to Sen. Sparks, who throughout his legislative career has been at the forefront of vital legislation for SWCDs and natural resources across the State of Minnesota.

In 2008, for example, the Legislature sent millions of dedicated funds for agricultural wetland restoration and detention projects. This was not popular with our state agency staffers but Sen. Sparks recognized the leveraged match was outstanding and the local payoff would be great. He also knew the SWCDs would deliver and get the projects done. This has led to a partnership that has served the SWCDs and our communities exceptionally well on water resources.

Sen. Sparks also has carried legislation to create state recreational water trails in multiple areas within his district as well as brought back bonding dollars for water resource projects to this area.

He certainly seems to have the pulse of his constituents on water issues. In 2008, the state passed a legislative amendment to dedicate funding for Clean Water, Habitat and Parks projects. Mower County supported that legislation to the tune of 64 percent.

In 2015, community volunteers and The Hormel Foundation dedicated $3.2 million for clean-water projects in our area. Sen. Sparks is working closely with us to secure bonding dollars that will match the Foundation’s commitment for this vital initiative along with bonding support for further flood mitigation and water trail projects.

We congratulate Sen. Sparks on his award and look forward to continuing to our work with him to address issues and needs for water resources within our area and Minnesota.

Justin Hanson

District Manager

Mower Soil & Water Conservation District