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Chippewa River Project will be without staff; counties aim to continue project, resolve funding

MONTEVIDEO -- The Chippewa River Project will be without its own staff until its board of directors can determine how to fund its operations going forward.

Tribune file photo/ The Chippewa River Project has been working with landowners for over 20 years to implement best management practices in the 1.3 million acre basin. This is part of the landscape in Pope County.
Tribune file photo/ The Chippewa River Project has been working with landowners for over 20 years to implement best management practices in the 1.3 million acre basin. This is part of the landscape in Pope County.

MONTEVIDEO - The Chippewa River Project will be without its own staff until its board of directors can determine how to fund its operations going forward.

Emma Volz, who has served as director of the watershed project since last June, told the Tribune that her position will end March 31. Volz said the watershed project does not have operating funds for staffing.

While it will not have its own staff, the watershed project will continue, according to board chair Keith Englund, Douglas County, and Matt Gilbertson, Chippewa County representative to the board.

In the interim, JoAnn Blomme, with the Chippewa County Land and Resources office, will field phone calls to the office.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will continue to perform the water quality monitoring conducted at locations in the 1.3 million acre watershed and assure continuity in the record.

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Englund said board members will be meeting April 19 to determine how to go forward.

Much will depend on discussions underway with the Board of Water and Soil Resources and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The state awarded the watershed project two grants which expired on December 31 with work remaining to be done.

According to BWSR, the watershed project is due to return to BWSR in the range of $84,000 to $116,000. It's expected the actual amount to be returned will be known soon.

Englund said the watershed project has paid for some administrative expenses from grant funds not allocated for those costs.

Englund and Gilbertson said the intention is to maintain the Chippewa River Watershed Project. Doing so may require the member counties to chip in to cover costs. Water quality grants awarded by the state are not offering the funds for administrative costs as they formerly did, Englund explained.

The watershed project has its office in the Chippewa County courthouse in Montevideo. It was created over 20 years ago and is overseen by representatives from the county boards of the eight member counties: Otter Tail, Grant, Stevens, Douglas, Pope, Swift, Kandiyohi and Chippewa counties.

The watershed project has been awarded over $7.5 million in grants over its 20 year history, and leverated $6.2 million in matching investments for projects, according to Tribune archives.

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