Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources

Biennial Report to the Minnesota Legislature

FY 1998-99

Table of Contents

This report cost approximately $1,800 to produce, including staff time, design and printing.

BWSR is an equal opportunity employer.

The information contained in this report is available in an alternative format upon request.


Letter from the Chair

When I accepted the appointment as chair of the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) in January 1998, I expected that the upcoming year would bring many new opportunities and challenges. I have not been disappointed. 1998 proved to be a year of new partnerships and new successes, all aimed at expanding our service to local governments.

Perhaps the most visible of these successes has been BWSR's achievements in establishing new partnerships with the federal government. Minnesota's ground-breaking land set-aside program, Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve, became the state component of two new state/federal partnerships responsible for leveraging more than $3 million in the past year, with expected federal funding over the next two years of more than $13 million. These new partnerships called the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) and the RIM Reserve/Wetland Restoration Program partnership--enhance state efforts to protect water quality and improve fish and wildlife habitat by combining state and federal dollars to take marginal lands out of agricultural production. Through these programs, Minnesota has been able to accelerate its current efforts and protect far more acres than would have been possible through the RIM Reserve Program alone.

A second major achievement has been the improvements in wetland management. When the legislature approved the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) in 1991, the goals of the act were clear: to protect these valuable resources by requiring replacement of filled or drained wetland areas. Several years modifying the WCA to allow for Minnesota's regional differences resulted in two tremendously positive advances over the past year: the growth of the Wetland Banking Program and the option for local governments to develop their own Comprehensive Wetland Management and Protection Plans.

The Wetland Banking Program, which allows landowners to replace lost wetland areas by purchasing wetland credits established from the creation or restoration of wetlands, grew exponentially over the past year. During 1998, deposits in the wetland bank increased by 555 acres (35 percent), from 1,605 acres in January 1998 to 2,160 acres in October 1998. About 39 counties participate in the program. Because the program allows development to proceed in a timely fashion while still providing for environmental protection, future growth looks strong.

Comprehensive Wetland Management and Protection Plans allow local governments to deviate from the WCA to meet local needs. This flexibility allows the WCA to work for the entire state, despite the geographical differences between wetland-rich northern Minnesota and the well- drained farmland of southern Minnesota.

A fourth and final success that deserves mention is the increased cooperation among state environmental agencies. Several years ago, at the behest of then-Governor Arne Carlson, the state agencies whose activities affect the environment (the Department of Natural Resources, the Pollution Control Agency, BWSR, the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture, and others) began to work together to coordinate state budget requests. From that beginning has grown a stronger, better orchestrated state agency effort to manage our resources, improved communication, and increased efficiency.

All of these achievements have made 1997-98 one of the most interesting and challenging bienniums in BWSR's history, and the future shows no shortage of new complexities. We move into the next millennium with an increased emphasis on technology that, while making us more productive, also introduces concerns we could not have imagined even a few years ago. A new spirit of government streamlining exists, and the public demands more information and action, but believes it should be done at a reduced cost. In facing these challenges, BWSR will continue to focus steadfastly on our mission of service to local governments, to build on our past successes and work to develop new ways to promote the wise management of natural resources in Minnesota.

Kathleen Roer
Chair, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
December 1998


BWSR mission and Strategic Plan

"The mission of the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is to assist local governments to manage and conserve their irreplaceable water and soil resources."

This mission unique in all state government reflects the belief that effective environmental management can only be accomplished through a state/local partnership. The state's role carried out through BWSR is to provide local governments with the tools it needs. These tools include overall environmental policies and guidelines; long-term goals; regular communication between state and local levels of government; and financial, technical and administrative assistance. Local government brings to the table its land use authority, accomplished through local planning and zoning and regulation, and its intimate knowledge of local resource needs and uses, local personalities, and local priorities.

BWSR's assistance comes in a variety of ways. During the stages of resource policy development and implementation--at the legislative or state agency level--BWSR acts as the communication link, providing local governments with a voice at the state level and in turn communicating state priorities and interests. BWSR's monthly board meetings serve as a forum for local governments to provide input to discussions on state policy, funding directions and program implementation. BWSR's grant programs dispense funding to carry out local resource plans, and BWSR staff members frequently contribute technical help. Board staff also offer training on new programs and basic and advanced administrative and technical skills.

Although all BWSR programs and activities are driven by its mission, certain core beliefs form the underlying structure for how the agency carries out those programs and activities.

These beliefs, outlined in BWSR's Strategic Plan, include:

  • BWSR believes that water and soil management is best implemented locally, with local units of government working directly with landowners, resource management agencies and citizens to provide a grassroots approach to resource protection efforts.
  • BWSR believes that water and soil management is best implemented voluntarily, with education and incentives influencing individuals to use wise management practices.
  • BWSR believes that water and soil management is best accomplished comprehensively and collaboratively, with local units of government working with each other, individuals, and resource agencies.

As it designs its programs to advance these beliefs, BWSR relies upon the skill and dedication of local government staff and officials, and BWSR staff and board members, who must work together daily to ensure that programs are running smoothly and reaching their goals. BWSR owes its success to these many hardworking people who make management of Minnesota's irreplaceable natural resources their priority.


BWSR membership and staff

    BWSR consists of 17 members representing the local governments, the general citizenry and the state environmental agencies. Three members represent soil and water conservation districts; three represent counties; three represent watershed management organizations or watershed districts; and three are citizen members. The remaining five members represent the Minnesota Departments of Health, Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the University of Minnesota Extension. The governor appoints BWSR members to four year terms, with the possibility of reappointment. The governor also names the chair. BWSR's approximately 63 staff members are located in one of seven offices throughout the state.

    This map shows the locations of the agency's offices in the state.

    Although more than half of BWSR's staff is located in its field offices, its central and administrative staff are housed in St. Paul near the state capitol building. Almost all of the agency's field staff are board conservationists (BCs). These BCs work directly with all local governments within their work area, providing close, one-on-one service.

    Other services provided by BWSR staff include:

    • Engineering: BWSR staff engineers design wetland restorations and, along the north shore of Lake Superior, erosion control measures.

    • Accounting/bookkeeping: A staff accountant works with local governments (primarily soil and water conservation districts) to help them maintain a financial bookkeeping system.

    • Forestry: A staff forester works with local governments, primarily in the northern part of the state, to provide assistance with forest management and stewardship planning.

    • Education: Three education staff people work with BWSR staff and local governments to provide assistance with public outreach and education.

    • Communications: One communications staff person provides assistance to local governments with news releases and other communications and media activities.

    • Wetlands: Two staff specialists provide wetland training, delineation and program assistance to local governments.






Program and
grant overview

    The largest portion of BWSR's approximately $36 million annual budget goes to local government grants. These grants go out through a variety of programs designed to encourage wise local resource management and conservation. Each local government grant program is a state/local partnership, with both state government and local government contributing.

    Local government grant programs and their goals include:

    • The Local Water Resources Protection and Management Program centers around development and implementation of county local water plans.

    • The Erosion Control and Water Quality Cost-Share Program shares landowners' costs to install erosion control practices, including streambank stabilization, grassed waterways, farming terraces and others.

    • The Nonpoint Engineering Assistance Program employs engineers and engineering technicians to design conservation practices for local governments.

    • The Wetland Conservation Act requires the replacement of drained or filled wetlands.

    • The Area II Program provides assistance to a frequently flooded nine-county area in southwestern Minnesota.

    This chart shows the distribution of the agency's budget for grants and easements.

    In addition, BWSR administers several conservation easement programs, which the legislature funds separately from its grants programs, generally through selling government bonds. These programs pay landowners to set aside certain marginal lands that contribute disproportionately to soil erosion and water pollution. As with BWSR grant programs, local governments administer these programs at the local level.

    The two main conservation easement programs BWSR's administers are:

    • The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program places conservation easements on drained wetlands (for restoration) and other marginal agricultural lands.

    • The Permanent Wetland Preserves (PWP) Program places conservation easements on existing wetlands of the types that are most frequently drained.

    BWSR also provides soil and water conservation districts with administrative funding for RIM Reserve, which is combined with a general administrative maintenance grant.

     






The Erosion
Control
and Water
Quality
Cost-Share
Program

Program goal:
To protect and improve water quality by controlling soil erosion and reducing sedimentation

FY 1998-99 state funding:
$6.24 million

FY 1998-99
accomplishments:

  • Animal waste control systems: 84
  • Terrace systems: 79
  • Erosion control structures: 472
  • Diversions: 33,000 feet
  • Critical area stabilization projects: 131
  • Field windbreaks: 560,000 feet
  • Stormwater control systems: 288
    Minnesota's Erosion Control and Water Quality Cost-Share Program--commonly referred to as the Cost-Share Program--is aimed at protecting and improving water quality by controlling soil erosion and reducing sedimentation, the greatest single contributor to water pollution.

    The program pays up to 75 percent of a landowner's cost of installing a variety of conservation practices, including animal waste control systems, terraces, field windbreaks and stormwater control systems. Soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) administer the program locally, taking landowner applications and determining which projects best fit local needs and priorities. SWCDs receive varying amounts of money based upon an allocation formula that weighs a number of factors.

    During the FY 1998-99 biennium, the Cost-Share Program received about $6.04 million in legislative funding, about $2 million more than its usual allocation. The legislature targeted this additional money toward water quality management grants related to feedlots, with $1.8 million dedicated to grants for small feedlots (with a priority on feedlots that had been cited for water quality violations) and about $200,000 for additional technical assistance.

    Contour stripcropping helps slow water runoff and reduce soil erosion
    Contour stripcropping helps slow water runoff and reduce soil erosion

    As has been done since 1994, about $1 million of the remaining money was allotted to the Minnesota River basin, reflecting the continuing awareness of that watershed's unique concerns. In this biennium, 14 SWCDs within the basin used this money for a variety of erosion, animal waste and sediment control systems.

    The remaining funding plus about $599,000 in roll-over funding from previous bienniums was divided between standard cost-share projects, which address erosion and sedimentation problems ($3.3 million); and special projects, which allow SWCDs to accelerate treatment of a particular area or experiment with unique and innovative solutions to erosion problems ($400,000).

    Over the biennium, BWSR maintained its unique commitment to the North Shore by continuing to staff a north shore engineer to provide technical design assistance for projects on Lake Superior. Since BWSR established this position in 1994, the engineer has designed about 21 projects, in addition to helping develop educational materials and provide training workshops. The availability of this technical assistance has also allowed the BWSR to solicit about $369,800 in federal grants for North Shore erosion control projects.

Shoreline erosion can eat away at river banks.Shoreline erosion can eat away at river banks.






The Local Water Resources Protection and Management Program

Program goal:
To protect and enhance Minnesota's surface water and groundwater through local comprehensive water management

    The Local Water Resources Protection and Management Program (LWRPMP) aims to protect and enhance Minnesota's surface water and groundwater through local comprehensive water management. Under the program, counties approve and carry out locally developed water plans that address local priorities.

    The program, which began in 1987, is widely considered one of the state's most innovative and successful. County accomplishments through the program are myriad: inventories of septic systems, feedlots, and abandoned wells; water monitoring efforts, later used to adopt local ordinances; low cost water testing; abandoned well sealing; shoreland stabilization; buffer strip installation; and public education.

    As results from the program began to accumulate, another, less tangible benefit developed: the program began to serve as a focal point for other water protection efforts. State agencies began to see the plans as a good way to involve local people in water protection efforts, and the plans expanded to include items like identification of wetland protection areas, sensitive groundwater areas, and wellhead protection areas, as well as goals for dealing with these issues. Where agencies had previously each worked individually with counties, now the state had one vehicle for local/state communication. This streamlining reached a culminating point in 1994, when the state integrated funding from the LWRPMP base grant with shoreland management funding, Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) funding and feedlot permitting funding into one Natural Resources Block Grant, greatly reducing application and administration time for local governments. This trend continued with the addition of funding for the Individual Sewage Treatment System Program in 1998.

What's in a water plan?
What do water plans really accomplish? 

Here's a list of some of the most important achievements reached through the Aitkin County water plan:

  • shoreland ordinance modifications based on water plan priorities
  • creation of the Green Shores Program, which offers landowners incentives to exclude livestock from lakes and rivers; 12 projects were completed
  • sponsorship of a Rivers and Lakes Fair to educate families on the importance of water quality
  • funding and support for upgrading individual sewage treatment systems
  • development of partnerships based on watershed, rather than political, boundaries
  • leveraging $500,000 in other funds

FY 1998-99 state funding:
$6.07 million

FY 1998-99
accomplishments:

  • State funding matched by about $3 million locally
  • Development of a model surface water plan
  • Implementation activities by most of Minnesota's 86 counties including feedlot, abandoned well and septic system inventories; surface water and groundwater monitoring programs; low cost well testing; and adoption of resource management ordinances
  • Development of a guidebook for cities developing local water plans
  • Development of several model water quality protection ordinances
  • Approval of an additional $1million for the program from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR)
  • Integration of the Individual Sewage Treatment System Program funding with the LWRPMP funding, further streamlining the state grants process

    One key development of the FY 1998-99 biennium was the enhancement of water planning in the seven-county metropolitan area, where the program has always been administered quite differently than in greater Minnesota. Metro area counties prepare groundwater plans, but water management organizations (WMOs) joint powers groups based on watershed boundaries develop and implement surface water plans. 1998 saw the completion of several products designed to improve metro water planning, including a model surface water plan, a guidebook for cities developing local water plans and several model water quality protection ordinances. A 1995 grant of $100,000 from the Metropolitan Council funded these activities.

    Additional biennial successes included the development of a five-year program plan outlining program goals and initiatives through 2003; increased financial support for regional water planning groups; and cooperative agreements between local water planners and a variety of state and federal agencies to improve agency acceptance of local water plan strategies and to discuss proposed mandates tied to local water plans. BWSR also secured a positive recommendation for $730,000 in additional funding from the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR) to accelerate local water plan implementation during the FY 2000-01 biennium.

    Funding for the LWRPMP is divided into base and challenge grants. Each county receives base grant funding from the state, with the amount determined by the county's tax base. Counties with a high tax base receive less state funding; counties with a lower tax base receive more state funding. Each county must match the state's money to bring the total base grant funding to $37,500 per county annually. State base grant funding for the biennium totaled about $5.25 million, with a local match of about $3 million.

    BWSR awards the competitive challenge grants to counties for new or innovative projects that accelerate water plan implementation. In FY 1999, 15 counties received challenge grant funding totaling $423,000, with a local 1:1 match. In addition, special metro area water planning grants totaling about $110,000 went out to many WMOs as they revised their water plans to incorporate water planning rules approved in 1992; and $150,000 in grants were given to six counties in the Upper Minnesota River Valley and the Red River Valley to aid with flood recovery efforts after the flooding of 1997.






Reinvest in
Minnesota
(RIM)
Reserve
and
Permanent
Wetland
Preserves

Program goal:
To improve and protect water quality, reduce soil erosion and enhance fish and wildlife habitat

    The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program protects water quality, reduces soil erosion and enhances fish and wildlife habitat through retiring marginal lands from agricultural production and restoring previously drained wetlands. The program pays landowners a percentage of the value of their land to enroll it in a conservation easement. Types of land eligible for the program include drained wetlands (for restoration), highly erodible cropland, riparian agricultural land, pastured hillsides and sensitive groundwater areas.

    As with many other BWSR programs, soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) administer the program locally. SWCDs screen and prioritize applications based on how well they address local resource protection needs and priorities.

    The FY 1997-98* biennium saw tremendous changes and new successes added to the already illustrious history of the program. Two new major partnership efforts the RIM Reserve/Wetland Restoration Program (RIM/WRP) partnership and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)--provided new opportunities to increase enrollment acreage and environmental benefits. The RIM Reserve/WRP partnership combines the RIM Reserve Program with the federal WRP (administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service) to restore wetlands and place them first in a 30-year WRP easement, followed by a perpetual RIM Reserve easement. This provides for permanent protection of the wetlands while leveraging federal dollars and reducing RIM Reserve costs. Since it began in 1997, the RIM Reserve/WRP partnership has leveraged approximately $2.9 million federal dollars which, combined with $1.8 million in state money, has protected 4,500 acres of wetlands and adjacent uplands.

Before a RIM Reserve funded wetland restoration

Before a RIM Reserve funded wetland restoration

After a RIM Reserve funded wetland restoration

After a RIM Reserve funded wetland restoration



FY 1997-98* state funding:
$11.5 million

Program accomplishments:

  • enrollment of 13,782 acres, including 3,823 acres of restored wetlands and adjacent uplands and 6,745 acres of flood-prone riparian lands, through the RIM Reserve Program
  • enrollment of 1,265 acres of existing at-risk wetlands through the PWP Program


    * Easement programs are generally funded through the capital budget, which is on a different biennial cycle than the general fund budget. While the general fund budget runs for FY 1998-99, the capital budget cycle runs for FY 1997-98
    The second partnership, the CREP, is similar to the RIM Reserve/WRP partnership in that it combines state and federal land set-aside programs and leverages federal money for Minnesota; however, CREP is targeted only at the Minnesota River watershed, where it aims to enroll 100,000 acres. Eligible lands include drained wetlands (for restoration), riparian lands and flood prone lands. CREP began in 1998. It is anticipated that this program will leverage about $1.50 for each state dollar spent. The BWSR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency jointly administer the program.

    Including those enrolled through these new partnerships, RIM Reserve has secured approximately 2,370 easements, covering about 70,437 acres, since it began in 1986. This acreage includes 6,725 acres of wetland basins for restoration, along with 12,258 acres of adjacent uplands. The remaining 51,454 acres have been enrolled as other land types.

    Of those totals, 13,782 acres were enrolled in the FY 1997-98 biennium, at a cost of $12.05 million. The 13,782 acres includes 3,823 acres of restored wetlands and adjacent uplands and 6,745 acres of flood-prone riparian lands. Sensitive groundwater areas, highly erodible cropland and pastured hillsides comprise the remainder of the enrolled acres.

    Funding for the program has varied widely since it began, from a 1986-87 high of about $18 million to a 1988-89 low of $1.5 million. In 1998, the Legislature approved $15 million for easement acquisition through the RIM Reserve Program and the Permanent Wetland Preserves Program (see below) for the FY 1999-2000 biennium.

    RIM Reserve also continues to obtain federal grant money through the North American Wetland Conservation Act (NAWCA) to acquire easements on drained restorable wetlands in the Minnesota River watershed, the Heron Lake watershed in southwestern Minnesota and the northern tallgrass prairie ecoregion in northwestern Minnesota, bringing the total amount received from NAWCA since 1991 to $2.5 million.

    Permanent Wetland Preserves Program

    The Permanent Wetland Preserves Program (PWP) encourages landowners to preserve existing wetlands of the types most commonly drained or filled (wetland types 1, 2, 3 and 6) by allowing those areas to be enrolled in a permanent easement. The program functions similarly to the RIM Reserve Program, with landowners being paid a percentage of the assessed value of their land when they place it in an easement. During the 1997-98 biennium, BWSR spent about $784,000 to obtain 27 PWP easements totaling 1,265 acres. Since the program began in 1991, approximately 11,609 acres of existing wetlands have been placed under permanent protection through the program.

    *Easement programs are generally funded through the capital budget, which is on a different biennial cycle than the general fund budget. While the general fund budget runs for FY 1998-99, the capital budget cycle runs for FY 1997-98.






The Wetland Conservation Act


Program goal:
No net loss of wetlands in Minnesota

FY 1998-99 state funding:
$3.6 million

FY 1998-99 accomplishments:

  • Expansion of the wetland banking program to include 39 counties
    The Wetland Conservation Act, a broad wetlands protection measure approved by the Legislature in 1991, began the 1998-99 biennium with new amendments and emerged as an integrated part of local government land use programs.

    Concerns that the law which requires replacement of drained or filled wetlands--placed an unreasonable bureaucratic burden on landowners and was impractical for parts of wetland-rich northern Minnesota led the Legislature in 1996 to adopt a number of significant changes. By the beginning of the FY 1998-99 biennium, these changes which included transferring the responsibility for replacing wetlands lost due to repair of existing roads from local governments to the BWSR, and allowing local governments to develop their own Wetland Protection and Management Plans as an alternative to strictly adhering to the WCA had been in place for a full year, with evident positive results. With the amendments in place, local governments gradually began to accept the WCA and include it as part of their local land use regulation and planning.

    Local government incorporation of the basic program allowed other areas of the act to expand. Wetland banking, which offers landowners the option of purchasing wetlands "credits" established by previously restored or created wetlands, grew exponentially during the biennium. Since the program was first offered in 1994, approximately 2,160 acres have been deposited, and about 444 of those acres have been used, leaving a balance of approximately 1,716 acres. About 39 counties participate in the program. The cost per acre of wetland credits varies greatly-- depending upon the location, land value, size and the cost of the restoration construction from $1,000 to $20,000; the price may be even higher in the metropolitan area.

Each wetland type has its own unique characteristics.



Each wetland type has its
own unique characteristics.

Each wetland type has its own unique characteristics.

  • Wetland bank deposits totaling 2,160 acres since 1994
  • Local matching funding of $3.6 million
  • Streamlined permitting to combine WCA and Army Corps of Engineers' approval for smaller wetland projects
  • Compilation of 1996 wetland data indicating that WCA saved or created 4,428 wetland acres in 1996
  • Revision and distribution to local governments of the WCA Handbook
  • Presentation of five technical or administrative training sessions; total attendance of 800
    Strides were also made in the area of streamlining regulations. With federal, state and local governments all regulating wetland draining and filling, the resulting kaleidoscope of wetland laws has proved cumbersome and been the source of many landowner complaints. Responding to these concerns, BWSR has been working with the federal Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) to allow landowners who received WCA approval for smaller projects to circumvent the ACOE permit process.

    Data collected from January 1, 1996, through January 1, 1997 (the most recent available), indicates that the WCA continues to provide a significant incentive for landowners to revise projects so that they do not impact wetlands. Of the 6,897 projects proposed in 1996, 73 percent (5,002) were reworked to avoid wetlands entirely. About 4,428 acres of wetlands were saved or created in 1996 through the WCA.

    As in past biennia, the Legislature provided about $3.6 million for local governments to administer the program; local governments provided an additional $3.6 million.






The
Nonpoint Engineering Assistance Program

Program goal:
To provide technical assistance for the design of nonpoint water quality management practices

FY 1998-99 state funding:
$2.26 million

FY 1998-99 accomplishments:

  • helped design approximately 500 feedlot related and erosion control practices
  • assistance provided to approximately 100 local units of government
    The Nonpoint Engineering Assistance Program (NPEA) provides technical assistance to help soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) design nonpoint water quality management practices. Created in 1994, the program aims to fill the gap left by declining levels of federal technical staff available to help local governments. This need intensified in 1994 when the state approved a fund to provide low-interest loans to local governments and landowners for water quality purposes, and increased further when the Legislature provided new cost-share funding for landowners to improve feedlots in 1998.

    Through the program, 11 joint powers organizations, each composed of approximately eight SWCDs, receive funding to employ a professional engineer and an engineering technician.

    These engineering teams design feedlot management practices (such as manure storage structures and clean water diversions), streambank and lakeshore erosion control structures, terraces, grassed waterways, water and sediment control basins, and wetland restorations. 

    State FY 1998-99 funding for the program was $2.26 million.






Area II

Program goal:
To reduce flooding problems in the Minnesota River basin

FY 1998-99 state funding:
$378,000, plus $500,000 in capital budget funding

FY 1998-99 accomplishments:

  • four road retention projects
  • one dry dam structure
  • financial assistance to the Black Rush Lake wetland restoration project in Lyon County
  • Two small dam repairs/reconstructions
  • continued work on Lazarus Creek Floodwater Control Project in Yellow Medicine County
    The Area II Program aims to reduce flooding problems in the Minnesota River basin in southwestern Minnesota, while also providing water quality, wildlife and recreational benefits. Named after a study conducted by the federal government in the 1970s, Area II consists of Brown, Cottonwood, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Pipestone, Redwood and Yellow Medicine counties. A joint powers board with commissioners from each of the counties administers the program.

    Area II focuses its efforts on flood control projects such as road retention structures and dams. During the FY 1998-99 biennium, Area II completed four road retention structures, one dry dam, two small dam repairs, and provided financial assistance for wetland restoration. In addition, Area II continued previous soil boring and dam design efforts for a major dam and flood control project on Lazarus Creek in Yellow Medicine County.

    Funding for its work and administrative budget comes from a biennial budget of $504,000, about 75 percent of which is provided by BWSR; the nine member counties provide the remaining 25 percent. In FY 1998, the program also received $500,000 (to be matched locally by $333,000) for floodwater retention projects.

    The BWSR provides program oversight of Area II in the areas of annual and long-range planning, grant administration, and technical support as requested. The Area II board meets monthly, with quarterly meetings held at rotating county seats. Area II holds a legislative breakfast annually in December to update member counties, state agencies and legislators of Area II's activities.

    Click here for a map of the Area II region.






Small and
one-time
grants

    Each biennium, BWSR receives a number of one-time grants. Often, these are pilot projects, with further funding dependant on the success of the first endeavor; sometimes they answer immediate, but unexpected needs. During FY 1998-99, BWSR received one-time grants totaling about $3.025 million, including:

    • $1 million for grants to soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) to provide cost- share funds for landowners to improve water quality management practices on feedlots;*

    • $475,000 for cost-sharing with landowners for water quality improvement projects in the Minnesota River basin (in addition to money already allocated through the Water Quality and Erosion Control Cost-Share Program);

    • $650,000 for a four-lake restoration project in Faribault and Blue Earth counties;*

    • $500,000 for flood control in Area II, a nine-county area of southwestern Minnesota;*

    • $100,000 for a grant to the University of Minnesota Extension Service to develop shoreland management guidebooks;

    • $200,000 for a ditch abandonment project in Chisago and Washington counties; and

    • $100,000 for a pilot program to use tree and shrub plantings to reduce snow cover on roads and highways ("living snowfences").

    BWSR also gives a number of small grants each biennium:

    • $54,000 to the Southeast Minnesota Water Resources Board, a nine-county joint powers board that coordinates implementation of local water plans;

    • $125,000 for the Minnesota River Joint Powers Board, a 37-county joint powers board that coordinates water plan implementation in the Minnesota River basin; and

    • $1.04 million to local governments for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shoreland management program; this funding includes $35,000 for the North Shore Management Board, a group of representatives from the counties and major cities along the North Shore of Lake Superior, and the St. Louis River Board, which implements the St. Louis River plan and has representatives from Carlton and St. Louis counties and townships.

    *all or part of grant allocated as part of the FY 1999-2000 capital budget.






Outside
funding

    Just as BWSR develops relationships with local governments, it also strives to create partnerships with federal agencies to enhance local resource management. BWSR's efforts to leverage outside financial and technical assistance during the FY 1998-99 biennium proved highly successful, bringing in money and commitments of approximately $15 million.

    The lion's share of that money is from the federal government through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). This land set-aside program combines the state Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program with the federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to remove marginal lands from production.

      This graph shows sources of funding and amounts

    Under the CREP, the federal government matches state dollars at a ratio of $1.50 to $1. Given that the state has allotted $6.875 million for CREP during the FY 1999-2000 biennium, the federal government will contribute an additional $10.3 million for total funding of about $17 million; this should allow BWSR to enroll about 18,000 acres.

    A similar state/federal partnership that began over the biennium leveraged almost $3 million in federal dollars for a state investment of about $1.8 million. The RIM Reserve/Wetland Restoration Program (RIM/WRP) partnership provides funding to restore drained wetlands and then places a federal WRP easement on the land; when the WRP easement expires, the land is placed in a permanent RIM Reserve easement.

    Grants from the federal North American Wetland Conservation Act (administered by the North American Wetland Conservation Coun- cil, or NAWCC) also contributed significantly to BWSR's outside funding. NAWCC approved $900,000 during the biennium for BWSR to acquire easements and install practices on certain targeted areas in Minnesota. This brings the total funding NAWCC has awarded to BWSR to approximately $2.5 million since the act became law in 1991.

    BWSR also received about $440,000 in federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants (called "319" grants in reference to the section of law authorizing the grants) during the biennium. These grants were used for a variety of projects, including:

    • a tillage transect project, which aimed to establish baseline data and monitor trends in the use of crop residue management, and then use that information to reduce soil erosion in the state;

    • a part-time lakeshore engineering technician to provide techni- cal assistance for erosion control projects in the Lake Superior drainage basin;

    • the Lakeshed Erosion Control Project, which provided grants to soil and water conservation districts in targeted lakesheds to implement lower cost best management practices;

    • a grazing lands project, which helped landowners develop and maintain good grazing systems and supplied technological support for local resource managers; and

    • expansion of the Local Governmental Unit Annual Reporting System (LARS), which tracks pollutant reductions resulting from conservation practices applied to control erosion and runoff.

    Other federal dollars from EPA awarded during the biennium included a $65,780 grant awarded in FY 1997 and a $124,650 grant awarded in FY 1998. These grants have a number of components:

    • development of a wetland web site to provide technical, educational and general information about wetlands and the state Wetland Conservation Act, as well as information about relevant meetings, training sessions, etc.

    • development and printing of Wetlands of Minnesota, a comprehensive publication about wetlands aimed at a general audience;

    • aerial photo training to teach BWSR employees how to read and interpret aerial photos for purposes of wetland identification, restoration potential and enforcement of wetland law;

    • assessment of the success of restoring or creating wetlands, the functional level of those wetlands, and the factors that lead to high or low-functioning wetlands;

    • a demonstration program using new four-layer mats for temporary wetland crossings in forested areas; and

    • digitization of the Minnesota Routine Assessment Method for evaluation of wetland functions (MNRAM) so that a computerized database can be developed.

    BWSR also received a $21,840 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to fund the installation of living snowfences and community shelter belts. These windbreaks of trees, shrubs and other vegetation help keep snow off highways and streets.

    Finally, the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) provided BWSR with $9,700 for soil testing along the north shore to collect information about the stability of different types of soils. This information could be used in the installation of shoreline stabilization projects.