OLIVIA -- The Minnesota River Board needs to establish clear-cut goals and a strategy to meet them if it is to see continued state funding support, according to John Jaschke, executive director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources.
He told members of the board that the political mood in St. Paul is "ugly and getting uglier. Things always get worse before they get done,'' he said during the board's meeting on Monday in Olivia.
The River Board represents the 37 counties in the basin and works under a joint powers agreement to promote clean water initiatives. It receives $84,000 a year in state funding. Its member counties also pay dues to support its operations.
The River Board has been urging legislators to continue the state funding, according to Shannon Fisher, executive director.
Jaschke warned that legislators are certain to cut natural resource funding: It's just a question of how much. A conference committee recently approved a 26 percent cut, more than either the House or Senate had proposed, he said.
The River Board needs to become more action-oriented and set goals that will generate support for funding if it is to survive as a clean water organization.
"What's the state's interest in putting administrative funding into your organization?'' he asked.
Board members said there is a diversity of interests among the counties, and the slow and deliberate nature of government has made it difficult to achieve big results. Fisher described the efforts as "slow but steady.''
The members cited efforts to promote the redetermination of ditches in the counties -- and the consequent inclusion of more buffer strips -- as one example of where the board has helped make a difference.
They also pointed to the communication and relationships they have helped build between landowners and conservation initiatives.