Bemidji bans non-essential water usage based on drought warning

Based on a drought warning implemented by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Bemidji City Council on Monday banned non-essential water usage. Non-essential water functions include lawn sprinkling, vehicle washing and recreation area watering.

Bemidji City Hall 2020 web art.jpg
Bemidji City Hall.

BEMIDJI -- A ban on non-essential water use is now in effect for the city of Bemidji.

The ban was created via a resolution approved by the Bemidji City Council during its meeting Monday, July 19. The ban was suggested by the city's Public Works Department, which had received a letter from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, announcing the state was in a drought warning phase.

As part of the state's drought plan, when a warning phase is entered, actions must be taken by water suppliers with a population of more than 1,000. To meet state specifications, city staff recommended actions to reduce water usage by about 400,000 gallons per year.
The city had already banned non-essential water usage on odd-numbered days , but more restrictions were needed to meet the goal. Non-essential water includes lawn sprinkling and vehicle washing, as well as watering golf courses, parks and recreation areas.

The only exceptions for the new ban are buildings and development projects required to have vegetation by city ordinances or permitting requirements. As part of the resolution, the city is also recommending private well owners and surface water users in the city honor the ban.

Public Works Director Craig Gray suggested the resolution be in effect until the DNR either gives word that it can end or lifts the drought warning. Gray said Monday that the DNR had sent the same letter to more than 600 other Minnesota cities across the state.


The resolution passed in a 6-1 vote, with Mayor Jorge Prince and Councilmembers Nancy Erickson, Ron Johnson, Daniel Jourdain, Emelie Rivera and Audrey Thayer voting in favor, while Josh Peterson was against. Peterson argued that the resolution should be more focused on commercial water users and residential residents should have more flexibility.
Another approval by the council on Monday was to redo parking along Minnesota Avenue to allow more spaces between Second Street and Sixth Street. The proposal, submitted by the Bemidji Downtown Alliance and Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, would remove parallel parking spots and replace them with diagonal spaces.

In doing so, Minnesota Avenue will have 15 additional spaces along the stretch. Gray said Minnesota Avenue is wide enough to handle diagonal spaces and the project to change the parking would take about three to four weeks.

Later in the meeting, the council held its final reading on an amendment to the city's Firearms, Bows and Hunting Ordinance. The new amendment allows city residents in rural areas with a parcel size of five acres to hunt on their own property.

Those who want to hunt or trap on their property must register annually in writing with the city to do so. The amendment only allows shotguns and muzzleloaders and prohibits the use of shotgun slugs.

The amendment was created to accommodate newly annexed residents from Northern Township. When they were still residents of Northern Township, property owners were allowed to hunt and trap on their property. As part of its third and final reading, the amendment was voted on and approved by the council.

Another ordinance matter on the council's agenda was to create a Police Advisory Board . The council held its first reading to introduce the ordinance Monday, and the next reading will be held on Aug. 2. City rules mandate a public hearing take place during the second reading.

The proposed Police Advisory Board would act as a line of communication between the community, Bemidji Police Department and the Bemidji City Council. It would also be able to review police-related incidents and provide feedback, although it would not receive police complaints or investigate personnel matters, based on state statute.

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