County board backs Root River 1W1P

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mower County has officially put its support behind the Root River One Watershed, One Plan.

The Mower County board unanimously approved the Root River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan and a joint powers agreement for Root River’s One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) during its Tuesday meeting.

“As exciting as planning can be, this is kind of an exciting day,” joked Justin Hanson, the Mower County Soil & Water Conservation District manager and Cedar River Watershed District administrator.

Email newsletter signup

In essence, the board’s vote gives its stamp of approval to the Policy Committee of the Root River 1W1P, an effort Hanson and Commissioner Tim Gabrielson have been involved with since the beginning.

Now, the Root River 1W1P is moving past planning and toward projects.

“We’re excited by that because a it’s a little bit of a finish line in some ways,” Hanson said. “It puts aside the planning and lets us move forward into the actual implementation phase.”

The Root River plan is one of five 1W1P pilot projects, but the state launched 1W1P statewide in April after the two-year pilot period. In August, the state approved the Cedar River 1W1P project as part of the next round of projects with a two-year process to get it underway.

Mower County is one of 13 local government units that will be voting on the Root River 1W1P plan. The plan will change how the counties address water planning and it will bring all those stakeholders together to form a collective plan.

Hanson spoke to the board about the lengthy discussions behind the plan, and he spoke of how they’re now hoping to secure state funds for the project.

“From a staff standpoint, we’re excited to get this thing rolling,” he said.

Gabrielson noted the work took many meetings, as Hanson credited the policy committee with its work, adding that this is the first plan of its sort and took a good amount of time. Hanson said they’ll hopefully see the fruits of that labor during the Cedar River 1W1P, though he still expects that to take about two years.

Hanson credited the committee for working hard to not craft a new level of government that would become burdensome. However, if things take off and the state comes through with funding opportunities, Hanson said there could be the potential for staffing, but that would come as the result of project funds and those positions would be within local soil and watershed districts.

Hanson said he’s heard positive signs of the state coming through with funding in the future for waterway projects.

Mower County’s eastern portion hosts the headwaters of the Root River and Upper Iowa River. About 13 percent of Root River 1W1P’s planning area is in Mower County, including the townships of Bennington, Clayton, Dexter, Frankford, Grand Meadow, LeRoy, Lodi, Pleasant Valley, Racine and Sargeant.

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.

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

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 empties into the Mississippi River near Hokah, in Houston County.