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Public hearing set for Cedar River 1W1P plan

After two years in the works, a draft plan for managing water in Minnesota’s Cedar River Watershed is nearing completion, which, in turn, will open new funding from the state for projects.

A public hearing on the draft plan for Cedar River One Watershed, One Plan (Cedar River 1W1P) is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday, in the large conference room of the Austin Public Library with an open house scheduled before the hearing from 4-5 p.m.

Cedar River 1W1P’s Policy Committee will hear public input on the draft comprehensive water-management plan that sets goals and strategies for a 10-year period. The public can view the draft plan online at www.cedarriverwd.org.

After the hearing, the Policy Committee will vote on whether to submit the draft plan to the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR) for final review and approval. BWSR will have 90 days to approve the plan, which then will go to local government units in the Cedar River 1W1P planning area to vote on whether to adopt.

Under 1W1P, the state aims to create plans based on watershed boundaries rather than smaller, political boundaries. This will ensure that the most significant threats to a watershed’s water resources, including surface and ground water, are addressed with practices providing the greatest environmental benefits. The plan will not add a new layer of government.

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 water quality and water quantity.

Overall, the Cedar River 1W1P boundaries cover 462,295 acres. Most of the land – about 57 percent – is in Mower County, with 32 percent in Freeborn; 10 percent in Dodge; and one percent in Steele (mostly the city of Blooming Prairie).

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.

Partners from Dodge, Freeborn, Mower and Steele counties and each’s SWCD along with the Cedar River Watershed District, Turtle Creek Watershed District and the City of Austin have been working on the Cedar River 1W1P initiative.

Three years ago, BWSR approved up to $1.7 million overall for seven watersheds, including the Cedar, to conduct the state’s second round of 1W1P projects.

In June 2017, local and state agency staff members hosted a public kickoff in Austin for the Cedar River 1W1P initiative.

Cedar River 1W1P’s Policy Committee, which began meeting in March 2017, includes board members from SWCDs, watershed districts and counties in the watershed and the City of Austin. The committee has overseen and guided the project.

Staff from the planning area’s local-government units have coordinated the process through a planning work group. Officials from state agencies and other stakeholder groups have provided feedback through an advisory committee.