Watershed districts must develop and revise their watershed management plans. The following information describes the process for developing and revising watershed plans (plans).

The development and revision process is broken up into four major phases: initiate, draft, review and adopt. Each phase consists of required and recommended steps for developing/revising water plans, as per Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D (103D.401 for new plans and 103D.405 for revised plans). The required steps are indicated with an asterisk (*), however, including the recommended steps can build a more robust and thorough process.

Graphic of process

Development/Revision Process

Phase One: Initiate the development/revision process

Step 1. Resolution to develop/revise

WD consults with the BWSR Board Conservationist to review the plan development/revision process. Prepare to start the process approximately 18-24 months prior to the end date of the current plan to allow adequate time to gather input, write/revise the plan, and meet the review timelines.  Set a due date for plan completion and work backward to develop an internal timeline.

WD Board passes a resolution to develop/revise their plan Word document (docx). WD submits resolution to the BWSR Board Conservationist. 

Step 2. Advisory committee(s)*

Engage standing advisory committee(s) in the development/revision process. The purpose of the committee(s) are to make recommendations on the issues identified in the plan (Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D.331, Subd. 1). Committees are most beneficial when their input is solicited and integrated regularly throughout the development/revision process.

Depending on the size and scope, more than one advisory committee may be necessary. Consider multiple advisory committees when the watershed district is large enough to justify regional committees, and/or specialized enough to split into specialty areas such as a separate citizen (CAC) and technical (TAC) advisory subcommittees.

Step 3. Notify

WD notifies the required entities: BWSR, DNR, any county (board and auditor), city (manager), and soil and water conservation district affected by the watershed district. It is recommended to notify the following entities: the governing body of tribal lands in the watershed district, regional development commission (if any), MPCA, MDH, MDA, and MnDOT. The notice is recommended to be sent within 30 days after adoption of resolution to plan. The notice describes the initiation of the plan development/revision and requests input on any existing water and related land resources plans and official controls; any conflicts, problems or opportunities that those entities want examined and addressed in the watershed management plan; allow 60 days for response. Completing this step helps to assure effective and efficient management, coordination, and consistency of water plans within a watershed.

Step 4. Public input

WD develops a public input process in consultation with BWSR and approved by the WD Board. At least one public input meeting is recommended, however, multiple public meetings may be necessary to explain the planning process, the goals of the plan, and to solicit meaningful input. Public input is important because watershed plans developed with broad citizen participation will create support for day-to-day plan implementation and expenditures and help guide annual activities. Citizen surveys and workshops with interest groups can be additional means to gather public input.

Step 5. Initial planning meeting

WD hosts initial planning meeting(s) to receive, review and discuss public input.  It is recommended to conduct this meeting within 90 days of resolution to plan. At the initial planning meeting, the WD should discuss the planning process, issues identified during the initial 60-day comment period, potential goals and priorities, and discuss public input opportunities.

Step 6. Assessment and data review

WD performs self-assessment, gap analysis, and/or needs assessment to evaluate progress on current plan. WD also identifies and considers all resource inventories, relevant plans and programs. Review any Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) (pdf) reports, Groundwater Restoration and Protection Strategies (GRAPS) reports, and One Watershed, One Plans (1W1P) developed for the area.

Step 7. Identify priority issues

WD Advisory Committee(s) and Board identify and prioritize issues after assessing available information including input from the public, and local and state government; as well as the resource inventory.

Phase Two: Draft plan

Step 8. Create an outline/draft plan*

New plans: WD develops the first draft of plan.

Existing plans: WD creates an outline of the main sections of the plan, develops list of sections to revise, note areas where information is missing, or out of date. Approve plan outline and submit to the BWSR Board Conservationist. BWSR has 60 days to review and provide recommendations to the WD regarding the outline. The WD creates a revised plan.

It may be beneficial to use an iterative process and gather feedback on sections of the plan as they are drafted instead of waiting until the full plan is drafted to gather feedback.

See Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D.405, Subd. 1 for required plan content requirements.

See One Watershed, One Plan, Plan Content Requirements (pdf) for recommended plan contents.

Step 9. Informal review and draft revision

WD conducts an informal review. Gather feedback on first draft plan from local and state government units, the Advisory Committee and other means of public participation. WD Board and Advisory Committee discuss and provide direction regarding feedback. WD revises draft plan per informal review and WD Board and Advisory Committee discussions. Submit second draft plan for review with WD Board approval.

Phase 3: Formal Review and Approval

Step 10. Formal review*

WD sends a copy of the draft plan to the following required entities for review: BWSR, DNR, any county (board and auditor), city (manager), and soil and water conservation district affected by the watershed district. Other recommended review agencies include: MDH, MDA, MPCA, and MnDOT. Allow at least 60 days for comments. The DNR must make recommendations on the plan and submit to BWSR, any county (board and auditor), city (manager), and soil and water conservation district in the area within 60 days.

Step 11. Compile and respond to comments

WD compiles comments and prepares draft response to comments. WD Board approves response to comments. Distribute responses to comments at least 10 days prior to public notice/hearing

Step 12. Public notice/hearing*

BWSR considers whether the plan should have a public hearing (Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D.105). If the plan is noncontroversial, BWSR will proceed with a notice that the watershed plan will be filed. If no requests are received within the notice period, then proceed to the next step.

If BWSR determines that the plan is controversial or if one or more requests for a hearing are received during the notice of filing period, BWSR conducts public hearing on the plan within 45 days after the comments are received.

Step 13. Revise plan

WD revises (60 day) draft plan based on comments received during formal review and public hearing, if applicable. WD Board gives approval to submit plan to BWSR for final review.

Step 14. Submit plan*

WD submits final draft plan to BWSR to complete final formal review. The BWSR subcommittee will make a recommendation and send to the BWSR Board for decision. BWSR will send a copy of the order and approved plan to the WD, state agencies, any county (board and auditor), city (manager), and soil and water conservation district affected by the watershed district.

Phase 4: Plan Adoption, Production, Distribution

Step 15. Adopt and distribute

WD Board adopts final plan as approved by BWSR. Upon receiving notice that BWSR has approved their plan, the WD passes an Adoption and Implementation Resolution Word document (docx) and forwards a copy of the resolution to the BWSR Board Conservationist. WD prepares final plan for electronic and print distribution. WD distributes the final plan to all the entities notified in Step 10.


Marcey Westrick
Central Region Manager