Letter: SWCDs offer front-line work on water management issues
In response to the editorial, "A role model for watershed management," Jan. 28, the Office of Legislative Auditor's report refers to the complex structure of government entities providing various water management services and the inadequate overs...
In response to the editorial, "A role model for watershed management," Jan. 28, the Office of Legislative Auditor's report refers to the complex structure of government entities providing various water management services and the inadequate oversight of these entities of which the Board of Water and Soil Resources has a primary responsibility.
There are numerous agencies with differing responsibilities relating to water. At one of the first meetings I attended on applying for a Clean Water Partnership Grant, I soon learned those 6 miles of the Moose River (listed as impaired in 2006) in remote northwestern Beltrami County is a low priority compared to a populated lake with tourism, recreation and industry.
With limited funding opportunities, how do we address these needs? By working together with other agencies, our SWCD, Beltrami County Highway Department and Red Lake Watershed District pooled resources and were able to implement stream bank stabilization projects on the Moose River.
BWSR, our "parent" state agency, is a relatively small agency with limited staff. Over the years, they have had programs for review-ing soil and water conservation districts. The last one I recall was "Strive Toward Excellence in Performance," which was "aimed at achieving measurable improvements in the quality, quantity or cost-effectiveness of services provided by state government." BWSR staff and budget cuts have limited their ability to do some of these reviews.
Still we have mandated guidelines to follow. We have a long-range comprehensive plan, annual report, annual plan of operations and regularly conducted audits. We use the BWSR online e-link reporting system where we show how our goals and objectives are met, funding reporting and actual project application with pollution reduction.
SWCDs were established by a referendum of the people they serve, and the county has some statutory obligation to fund them. We have tried working with Beltrami County on their "fee for services" approach. They have been receptive and we have requested and received funding for some of the projects we have proposed. Others the county has not approved, although they are identified as goals and objectives by the district. Limited funding in turn limits our ability to meet the soil and water needs to the area.
This comes down to why do people want to live here -- fresh air, clean water and forested lands. It all comes back to preserving and protecting our natural resources.