• 84°

Citizens can give input, learn about watershed

The new Cedar River One Watershed One Plan (1W1P) initiative will host a public kickoff event from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center’s Ruby Rupner Auditorium in Austin.

The free open house will feature two presentations at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m., with speakers including local staff leaders; the state’s 1W1P coordinator; and a state hydrologist who will show a Google Earth flyover video of the Cedar River in Minnesota.

Public input is being sought by officials working on a plan aimed at protecting and improving local waterways.

Those attending also can tour the nature center’s new interpretive center across from Rupner Auditorium until 5 p.m.

Attendees can give their input on the watershed, including by taking a survey, and add their location on a map of the watershed. They can learn more about the watershed from 10 informational booths offered by each of the Cedar River 1W1P’s local government units and state agencies, such as the Department of Natural Resources and the Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR), which is funding the 1W1P initiative.

Partners from Dodge, Freeborn, Mower and Steele counties, and the SWCDs of each, along with the Cedar River Watershed District, Turtle Creek Watershed District and the city of Austin, are working together on the Cedar River 1W1P initiative.

Citizens’ experiences, values and ideas for improving the watershed will help Cedar River 1W1P officials set goals and strategies for a 10-year period.

Overall, the Cedar River 1W1P boundaries cover 462,295 acres. Most of the land, about 57 percent, is in Mower County.

Cedar River Watershed District’s political boundaries are within the 1W1P planning area along with Turtle Creek Watershed District and the watersheds for the Little Cedar River, Otter Creek and Wapsipinicon River in Mower County and the Deer Creek watershed in southeast Freeborn County.

In August, BWSR approved up to $1.7 million overall for seven watersheds, including the Cedar, to conduct the state’s next round of One Watershed, One Plan projects. Cedar River 1W1P requested $192,500 for its likely two-year process.

The initiative is ready to start the watershed-based planning effort, with the kickoff public event being a first step.

Under 1W1P, the state aims to create plans based on watershed boundaries rather than smaller, political boundaries, ensuring the most significant threats to a watershed’s water resources are addressed with practices providing the greatest environmental benefits.

It also allows local governments to work together to implement projects improving water quality and water quantity. The project also aims to detail how a watershed’s partners will implement the plan and work cooperatively.

BWSR has led the statewide 1W1P program that aims to reduce the more than 200 water plans statewide to less than 100. Local water plans in the Cedar River Watershed either are overdue for updates or coming up for renewal, according to officials.