Purpose

rev. 12/10/20

BWSR has included a set of key indicators in the Watershed based Implementation Funding Policy — known as assurance measures  — to illustrate that Watershed-based Implementation Funding (WBIF) dollars are being spent on effective activities to address the most pressing resource needs in a watershed. The purpose of these assurance measures is to summarize and systematically evaluate how WBIF dollars are being used to achieve clean water goals identified in comprehensive watershed plans.

Local government staff are key partners in clearly communicating assurance measures results for each watershed to decision-makers and stakeholders. The assurance measures will be used by BWSR to provide additional context about watershed plan implementation challenges and opportunities.

Data from eLINK and other reporting platforms are already available. BWSR will work in conjunction with local partners’ planned methods of evaluation to document additional information that provides context and depth to WBIF results. These discussions will happen through conversations and meetings between BWSR and  local government staff to provide a comprehensive picture of watershed implementation activities. Ongoing communication will provide much of that information but near the end of the grant, attention will be paid to the structured assurance measures to evaluate the current grant and provide guidance for the next round of funding. 

The questions below are intended to provide some uniformity across the state but other questions or information may be discussed that is relevant to a watershed partnership. Flexibility in documenting the assurance measures may be necessary considering the unique characteristics of watersheds and watershed partnerships.  These assurance measures may be adapted over time as lessons are learned and experience is gained regarding the impact of WBIF across the state.

Assurance Measure 1: Understand contributions of prioritized and targeted work to achieve measurable clean water goals

This measure is meant to assess the progress a partnership is making toward the watershed plan’s measurable goals and the estimated impact of this progress on priority water resources during the grant period.

  1. Description: Progress towards plan goals will be measured within a given watershed plan area. This progress will not be compared against other watershed planning areas across the state. Note there is usually a time lag between actions and measurable results and that other external factors can also impact in-column water quality data. Estimated pollutant reductions will be used to indicate progress when appropriate and will be based on the best available information. Outputs measured as BMPs installed or projects completed may also serve as surrogates for outcomes. 
  2. Initial questions for LGU staff:
  •  To what extent did practices, projects, and programs address an identified measurable goal from the watershed plan?
  • To what extent were practices, projects, and programs accelerated by WBIF to help achieve the intended outcomes from the grant work plan?
  • What is helping or hindering the partnership in achieving the goals of the grant work plan?

Assurance Measure 2: Review progress of implementing programs, projects, and practices in identified priority areas

This measure is meant to assess implementation progress in priority areas.

  1. Description: Watershed grant work plan activities will be compared to high priority issues and/or areas described in the watershed plan. BWSR recognizes unforeseen circumstances may arise through grant implementation. One key purpose of WBIF is to provide supplemental support for implementing prioritized and targeted activities (projects, practices, and programs) identified in the watershed plan that will yield the highest return on investment for clean water. Significant departure from implementation in priority areas and/or towards measurable goals should not be undertaken lightly and should be documented through work plan adjustments or grant amendments.
  2. Initial questions for LGU staff:
  • What was the level of effort in high priority areas?
    • Who and how many landowners did you contact?
    • What kind of contact was used and which methods were the most successful?
    • How many partners contributed (time, money, etc.) to the implementation effort?
    • How many landowners became engaged in actions related to water issues.
  • What was the rationale for implementing actions in areas not designated as high priority?
  • Are there other practices, projects and programs the partnership would like to highlight that were not directly funded by WBIF?

Assurance Measure 3: Completion of Clean Water Fund grant work on schedule and within the budget

This measure is meant to assess progress within the expected schedule and budget.

  1. Description: Watershed grant work plan activities will be compared to the schedule and budget proposed in budget requests. Note that BWSR recognizes extenuating circumstances may arise during the grant period that delay or change some actions and may require work plan adjustments or grant amendments. Consultations between recipients and BWSR staff, eLINK annual reporting, and grant monitoring documentation of any delays or plan changes will be part of the assessment process. 
  2. Initial questions for LGU staff:
  • What did the partnership do to set itself up for success (e.g. staffing plans, landowners lined up, communication plans, studies already completed for targeting)?
  • To what extent did the grant work plan get implemented on schedule?
  • To what extent did the grant work plan get implemented within budget?
  • Were changes to the work plan budget or schedule needed? If yes, what was the primary cause of those changes?
  • What lessons were learned that will influence the next grant work plan?

Assurance Measure 4: Leverage of funds beyond the state grant

This measure is meant to help us understand how the state’s investments are leveraging additional funds to achieve Minnesota’s clean water goals.

  1. Description: Funding opportunities pursued will be relative to opportunities available. Efforts will be documented within a given watershed plan area, not against other watershed plan areas across the state. Detailed accounting is not necessary to complete this assurance measure. BWSR recognizes that some parts of Minnesota have greater access to non-state funding sources than others. 
  2. Initial questions for LGU staff:
  • What supplemental and/or outside funding sources were available to the partnership to implement the watershed plan within the grant time frame?
  • To what extent did the partnership pursue those funding sources?
  • Did the state’s WBIF investment contribute to success in securing supplemental and/or outside funds? In what way?
  • Were base funding expenditures consistent with plan expectations?
  • What other funding sources or non-funding types of leverage (e.g. new partnerships, expertise) would the partnership like to highlight?

Assurance Measure  Definitions

Existing State Funds: The State of Minnesota provides funding to local governments for conservation and clean water work through the Natural Resources Block Grant available to counties, Erosion Control and Water Management grants and other Program and Operation grants to Soil and Watershed Conservation Districts and Non-Point Engineering Assistance support funding to SWCD Technical Service Areas.

Local Base Funding: Funding sources that have been historically available to local government units through local levy for clean water work. Locally generated funds could include ad valorem levies or fees collected by local governments, levies for specific projects, services or donations from individual citizens and local organization and shared costs for best management practice installation from land owners or occupiers.

Outside Funding: Funding sources that are available but have not been historically used by project partners to any great extent. These funds may or may not require grant applications. Examples include but are not limited to EQIP funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Regional Conservation Partnership Program funds from NRCS, 319 watershed funding from MPCA, funding from a Non-Government Unit (example Hormel Foundation) or a private business (example Land O’Lakes), and landowner contributions.

Supplemental State Funding: Funds from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment must be supplemental funding and cannot be used to substitute traditional sources of funding. For the purposes of these assurance measures, supplemental funding includes funds such as Clean Water Funds (Watershed-based Funding, competitive grants, Non-Point Engineering and Assistance Program supplemental Funding, Capacity Funding, Buffer Implementation Funding) and other legacy funding such as but not limited to Outdoor Heritage Funds.

Watershed Based Implementation Funding (WBIF): Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment funds appropriated to BWSR and distributed to watershed partner groups for implementation of an approved Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan.