Public hearings set for Root River 1W1P

Published 10:08 am Monday, August 29, 2016

Public hearings are set for September to gather citizen feedback on the Root River One Watershed, One Plan pilot project after two years of work.

Following a two-month state review for their draft water management plan, Root River One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) officials will host public hearings Sept. 7 in Stewartville and Sept. 8 in Caledonia. Each event will have an open house on Root River 1W1P from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. followed by a public hearing at 7:30 p.m.

Stewartville Civic Center, 120 City Center St. (southeast corner of Minnesota Highway 30 and U.S. 63), will be the venue for the Sept. 7 hearing. Houston County Justice Center, 306 S. Marshall St., in Caledonia will host the Sept. 8 hearing.

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After the hearings, Root River 1W1P’s Policy Committee of elected county commissioners, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) supervisors and a watershed district board manager will review all state agency and public comments on the draft plan. The committee then will vote on whether to submit the plan to the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources for approval.

BWSR will have 90 days to approve the plan, which then will go to local government units (county boards, SWCD boards and a watershed district board) to vote on whether to adopt. Implementation of the plan could begin in January 2017.

Root River 1W1P’s planning area covers more than 1.3 million acres in parts of six counties — Dodge, Fillmore, Houston, Mower, Olmsted and Winona. This includes the Root River Watershed; Minnesota’s portion of the Upper Iowa River Watershed; and Houston County’s Mississippi-Reno Watershed.

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 1W1P process and hosted meetings in Preston.

Root River 1W1P’s local government units include Dodge, Fillmore, Mower, Olmsted, Houston and Winona counties along with their respective Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), with Root River SWCD representing Houston County. Crooked Creek Watershed District in Houston County also is among them.

Under 1W1P, the goal is to create a plan based on watershed boundaries rather than smaller, political boundaries. This will ensure that the most significant threats to a watershed’s water resources are addressed with practices providing the greatest environmental benefits.

It intends to provide a framework for consistency and cooperation on a watershed basis, allowing local governments to work together to implement projects with the highest return on investment for improving issues related to water quality and water quantity. Root River 1W1P also has a draft agreement under review that details how the watershed’s partners will implement the plan and work cooperatively. The plan will not add a new layer of government.

The Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR) has led the statewide 1W1P program that aims to reduce the more than 200 water plans statewide to less than 100. Watershed-based plans have the potential to allow for streamlined funding and administration to maximize efficiency, minimize redundancy and prevent duplication of efforts both on the local and state levels.

Implementation of the Root River 1W1P planning document could happen as early as January 2017. The plan will be scheduled for a five-year evaluation and 10-year revision.

The Root River 1W1P draft planning document — along with other related materials, such as meeting minutes — is available on the Fillmore SWCD website at: