Water planning – planning for the use and protection of a County’s water resources – has been a primary responsibility of SWCDs, Counties and Watershed Districts across the State of Minnesota for decades. Until now, water planning has been done by local water planning authorities at the County level with planning defined by County boundaries. However, in 2011, the Local Government Water Roundtable introduced legislation to allow comprehensive local water planning to be done on a watershed scale, instead of on a County level, since watershed boundaries do not follow the often straight, and often random, boundaries that define our Counties, cities and townships. In 2013, the Local Government Water Roundtable formally recommended this paradigm shift in water planning in a policy paper, which can be found here: http://www.bwsr.state.mn.us/planning/1W1P/LGWR_2016FundingPolicyPaper.pdf. This recommendation was followed by legislation in 2013 that is now known as One Watershed One Plan (1W1P).
Planning for the watershed as a whole, instead of just in pieces, allows for policies and actions that are consistent from the headwaters of a river to its outlet, and also focuses planning efforts on actions that address the specific pollutants that threaten a particular watershed. One Watershed, One Plan is a voluntary planning process that can be initiated by any local water planning authority, should they choose to do so. The program is coordinated by the MN Board of Water and Soil Resources and serves as a parallel program to the MN Pollution Control Agency’s 10-year major watershed assessment program (WRAPS) for watershed monitoring and assessment. The transition to watershed-based planning is not an easy one – local water planning authorities can choose to continue planning on a County level, and some have. However, thanks to planning grants and other financial support from BWSR, there are now 27 complete or in-process one Watershed One Plans in Minnesota. The South St. Louis SWCD has chosen, along with our planning partners, to embark on a Watershed-level planning process for the St. Louis River. Pending receipt of a planning grant from BWSR, we expect this process to commence early in 2020. Our current Local Comprehensive Water Management Plan is expiring soon, and our office has been closely involved with the MPCA’s WRAPS process for the St. Louis, Cloquet and Duluth Urban Major Watersheds for years, so leading this effort is a natural fit for our office. This process will take several years and the dedication and commitment of many partners and local groups interested in preparing a targeted, prioritized plan for protecting and restoring the St. Louis River Watershed with results (potential implementation actions) that can show measurable progress. This process and the resulting plan will not result in additional regulation; the St. Louis River 1W1P will provide guidance only on how the entities in the watershed can work together to protect those parts of the St. Louis River Watershed that are meeting water quality standards, and work towards restoring those streams and lakes in the watershed that are not currently meeting standards.
For more information on local water planning or the One Watershed One Plan program, please call Kate Kubiak at 218-723-4946.