County Board weighs Minnesota River resolution
WILLMAR - The Kandiyohi County Board couldn't muster enough votes last week to support a resolution opposing the formation of a Minnesota River Basin Commission - but the issue is far from dead.
WILLMAR - The Kandiyohi County Board couldn’t muster enough votes last week to support a resolution opposing the formation of a Minnesota River Basin Commission - but the issue is far from dead.
Board members who voted against the resolution said they just wanted more time to study the issues before taking an official position.
"I just need to do a little homework,” said Roger Imdieke.
The resolution was developed in response to a legislative proposal to create a commission for developing, implementing and maintaining water resource projects that benefit the Minnesota River basin. The proposal is currently sitting in the Senate Energy and Environment Committee.
Maintaining the health of the Minnesota River is increasingly seen as an environmental priority, both in the river corridor itself and the surrounding watersheds that drain into the river.
But regional entities are questioning whether the establishment of a basin-wide commission will add an unnecessary level of bureaucracy.
Some, including the Chippewa River Watershed Project, have already gone on record in opposition to the proposal.
There are many concerns about the legislative proposal, Heidi Rauenhorst told the Kandiyohi County Board at a meeting this past week. Rauenhorst is the director of the Hawk Creek Watershed Project.
For one thing, it’s likely to be redundant, she said, noting that one of the roles of the proposed commission would be to develop plans, targets and priorities.
"We already have several plans that cover the same thing,” she said.
It’s possible that levies or fees could be assessed to support the commission’s work, she said. “I don’t feel that people need to be taxed any more than they already are.”
There also are worries that regional entities will end up with less say in river and watershed projects and ultimately less funding.
Rauenhorst said opposition to the legislative proposal isn’t over turf issues. The regional watershed entities believe the focus should be on improving existing plans and partnerships involving the Minnesota River, she said.
The Kandiyohi County Commissioners didn’t disagree but they said they wanted more time to think about it.
“I don’t have enough information to support it,” Imdieke said.
Harlan Madsen urged more regional conversations on the issue. “I want to make sure we have some good options,” he said.