Organizational Structure
Roles and responsibilities
Records Retention
Website Reporting Requirements
Appendix A: Technical Service Area Board Member Position Description


Technical Service Areas (TSA) are a critical component of the conservation delivery system in Minnesota. TSAs provide technical assistance to and through member soil and water conservation districts (SWCD), in cooperation with BWSR and other local, state, and federal government units.  These services are considered essential to the success of private lands conservation programs administered by BWSR and other state and federal agencies.

Eleven SWCD joint powers organizations1 (JPOs) were established in 1994. This was done in conjunction with the establishment of the Agricultural Best Management Practices Loan Program and Clean Water Partnership Loan Program from the State Revolving Fund. SWCDs identified that accelerated technical assistance was a critical need for program implementation. The legislature appropriated General Funds to BWSR to create the Non-Point Engineering Assistance Program (NPEAP). These funds were used by the TSAs to provide engineering assistance to the member SWCDs.

Engineering was the sole focus of the program until 2003, when the Conservation Technical Assistance Committee (CTAC), comprised of SWCD representatives from the eleven JPOs, met to discuss potential consolidation (which didn’t occur at that time) and recommended revising the name to Technical Service Areas (TSA) to encourage the inclusion of other technical services.  In 2009, the original eleven TSA boundaries were revised to reduce the total number to eight TSAs due primarily to funding constraints and to be co-aligned with the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts area boundaries (see map).

Organizational Structure


Pursuant to (Minn. STAT. 103C.231 (2017), a SWCD may join or cooperate by agreement as provided in MINN. STAT. 471.59 (2017) with another SWCD in an operation or project in which the SWCDs have a common interest. All TSAs operate under a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), which establishes a Joint Powers Entity (JPE). This type of agreement delivers a service or product or manage or own property jointly by creating a new entity. The TSA board operates autonomously from the boards of its constituent members). Each member appoints a representative to serve on the TSA board. Members are primarily SWCDs, however the metro area also has county members where SWCDs do not exist.

Host District Manager and Fiscal Agent

One member SWCD serves as the host district manager, and in most cases, also serves as the fiscal agent for the grants received from BWSR. In a few cases, one member SWCD is the host district manager and another SWCD is the fiscal agent.

Employees/Independent Contractors

All of the TSAs have employees, except TSA 4 where technical assistance is provided by independent contractors or in-house SWCD staff. All the TSAs boards are the employers, except TSA 2 where several TSA member SWCDs employ the staff. Staff may be located at various locations within the TSA boundary.

See Employees Chapter [hyperlink] for more information about employees. Personnel policy [hyperlink].

Roles and Responsibilities

Board and Board Members

The role of the TSA board ranges from approving grants and budgets to approving work plans. Each TSA board operates according to its bylaws. For board member responsibilities, see example position description in Appendix A.

Host District Manager

The role of the host district manager is to serve as the primary contact between BWSR and the TSA, as well as, between the partner SWCDs.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Communicates and collaborates with SWCD partners.
  • Convenes the TSA board and provides regular reports to the board
  • Reports to BWSR on TSA accomplishments
  • Prepares annual TSA work plan and budget, in collaboration with partner SWCD managers

Fiscal Agent

The role of the fiscal agent is to serve as the primary contact between BWSR and the TSA for any BWSR grants. The host district manager may also serve as the fiscal agent.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Reports to BWSR regarding TSA grants received
  • Manages grant funds


TSA engineers

The role of the TSA engineer is to provide engineering services for projects submitted to the TSA.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Conducts site evaluations, including survey work
  • Develops/approves designs for projects
  • Oversees construction work
  • Signs off on projects after completion
  • Communicates with partner SWCD staff on the project in their county
  • Communicates with partner SWCDs regarding project status and engineering work completed, in progress, or in the cue.

TSA conservation technician

The role of the TSA technician is to provide support to the TSA engineer.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Conducts site evaluations, including survey work
  • Develop preliminary designs for projects

Partner SWCDs

The role of the partner SWCDs is to coordinate and collaborate with the TSA board and staff on projects, work plans, budgets and reporting.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • Act as the main contact for landowners who are doing projects using the TSA staff
  • Collaborate and communicate with TSA staff on project work
  • Complete initial site assessments

Independent Contractors

The role of the independent contractor is to provide services at the request of the TSA. Services provided could include engineering, marketing, geographic information system (GIS), accounting, etc.


TSAs are eligible to receive State General Funds via Nonpoint Engineering Assistance (NPEA) Grants. The Non Point Engineering Assistance (NPEA) Grants are allocated annually to the TSAs to increase the capacity of soil and water conservation district to provide engineering technical assistance to landowners.

The Clean Water Fund (CWF) has allowed some TSAs to expand the number of staff and types of expertise they employ to provide shared technical assistance to member SWCDs. TSAs are eligible to receive CWFs via TSA Enhanced Shared Technical Services Grants. This non-competitive CWF grant invests in building the capacity of NPEA (TSA) Joint Powers Boards to increase the capacity of soil and water conservation districts to provide technical and engineering assistance to landowners. For grants issued in FY18 or later, there is a 10% match required. For FY16 and 17, two grants were issued to each TSA; Part 1 has no matching requirement, while Part 2 requires a 25% match, of which 10% must by local cash match.

TSAs can receive additional technical assistance funding through fees for service, member SWCD contributions (membership fees), and other grant funding sources.

Annual Financial Statement

The TSA must submit an annual financial statement to BWSR by March 15th of each year. BWSR will then submit the financial statements to the Office of the State Auditor. The TSA shall post and retain the annual financial statement on the TSA fiscal agent’s website.

Audit Requirements

A TSA needs to be audited at least once every three years or sooner if its total revenue since last audit reaches $500,000. The audit must be conducted by an independent certified public accountant and then submitted first to the Office of the State Auditor in draft form, and once approved, sent to BWSR.

Records Retention

Program files must be retained by the TSA pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, §138.17, consistent with ongoing records retention schedules, and the BWSR Grants Administration Manual. For more information, see the Records Management Chapter of this handbook [add hyperlink].

Website Reporting Requirements

  • TSA Non-Point Engineering Assistance Program (NPEAP) grant: Annual financial report and eLINK work plans should be posted on the host SWCD website, unless the joint powers board has its own website.
  • The Legacy logo should be prominently displayed on the grantee’s website.
  • In addition to reporting grant activities, documents such as annual reports, annual work plans, organizational budgets and similar documents may be required by the grant program.

It is a best practice to post TSA board meeting agendas and minutes on the TSA website.

Appendix A: Technical Service Area Board Member Position Description

Position Purpose

A Technical Service Area (TSA) is Joint Powers Board (JPB) of the member Soil and Water Conservation Districts that is established to provide engineering assistance and other desired technical services.  The members of the JPB are appointed by their conservation districts to serve as governing members of the TSA.  These TSA board members provide operational oversight for the TSA and make decisions such as strategic directions, annual budgeting and operational planning, and fiscal management decisions.  Many of these TSA board work through agreements with their local Soil and Water Conservation Districts to host TSA employees or to serve as the TSA fiscal agent.

The role of the appointed SWCD representative is to serve as a member of the governing board of the technical service area.  As the TSA is an organization that has powers and duties independent of the member Soil and Water Conservation Districts, it is important for the TSA board member to have a solid understanding of the purpose and organization of their TSA.  In addition, the TSA Board member will be an active participant in the decision making for the organization including strategic directions, planning and budgeting, and ensuring local accountability. The TSA board member will also need to act as a liaison between the TSA and their member district to ensure the member district’s needs are adequately represented within the TSA board and the member district board is aware of the actions of the TSA.

Duties of a Technical Service Area Board Member

  1. Role within the TSA Board
    1. Develop and maintain an understanding of the purpose of the technical service area, including the role of providing technical services to the member districts
    2. Understand the Joint Powers Agreement that established the TSA to ensure the TSA works within the parameters as envisioned by the partner districts
    3. Participate in the development of long-term strategic and annual operational planning
    4. Participate in the development of the TSA annual budget
    5. Prepare for and attend TSA board meetings
      1. Review financial statements and treasurer’s report
      2. Review Minutes
      3. Review agenda and prepare for identified action and decision items
      4. Develop and prepare to discuss additional agenda topics of interest to the member conservation district or the larger TSA
    6. Review annual TSA engagement with member districts to ensure requests for assistance are met within a timely fashion
    7. Solicit and attend required and recommended training
  2. Role within the SWCD Member District
    1. Serve as a liaison between the TSA and the member district
      1. Provide a summary of TSA activity to the member district board
      2. Develop requests for information and governance action from the member district to the TSA Board
    2. Ensure staff is aware of process for submitting requests to the TSA for assistance
    3. Work with member district board and staff to assess overall timeliness and responsiveness of TSA
    4. Identify potential needs and opportunities that may be better served by the TSA



1The term joint powers organization is meant to include both joint powers collaborations and joint powers entities, which are discussed in more detail in the next section.