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Renville County Board of Commissioners sets water improvement goals

OLIVIA -- Renville County set its goals for improving water quality over the next five years, and it's apparent the needs are far greater than the means.

OLIVIA -- Renville County set its goals for improving water quality over the next five years, and it's apparent the needs are far greater than the means.

The County Board of Commissioners approved a newly revised water management plan at its meeting Tuesday that calls for an estimated $11.3 million worth of work. The county's contribution toward the total would be an estimated $3.8 million, according to Diane Mitchell, coordinator of the county's water and household hazardous waste departments.

She readily acknowledged that the financial resources are not available to meet those goals. "Nobody's pockets are that deep,'' she told the commissioners. She likened the plan to a "wish list'' that prioritizes the county's water quality strategy if funding were available.

Mitchell said that the state had cut clean water funding due to budget issues in previous years. She said it is difficult for counties to carry out long-range projects absent a dedicated funding source for them.

"I don't think we're quite there yet,'' she said of the calls for a dedicated fund for clean water projects in the state.

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Adopting the water plan is important to the county, even if it recognizes the goals cannot all be achieved. A water plan is required by the state, and makes the county eligible for the various grant funds it will be seeking, Mitchell said.

The plan seeks to address a variety of water quality issues identified by residents in the county. She said county staff also met with representatives of state agencies to help devise the goals.

The issues raised in the plan are familiar ones. The county hopes to reduce runoff from both rural and urban sources into surface waters, while also continuing efforts to monitor and protect surface and groundwater.

The goals range from efforts to preserve and restore wetlands to education efforts to encourage good stewardship practices by residents.

In an action related to the water plan, the commissioners approved an $81,141 block grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources for water and household hazardous waste efforts in the county. It provides funding for efforts ranging from water quality monitoring and wetland conservation to feedlot regulation and groundwater protection.

In other business on Tuesday, the commissioners approved a resolution that will provide for funding to install signals and gates at the Twin Cities and Western Railroad crossing at the intersection of Renville County Road 8 and 520th Street near Buffalo Lake. The county has long sought funding assistance through the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the project.

Public Works director Marlin Larson said the county would be responsible for 10 percent of the total project costs.

He estimated the county's share at $13,000 to $14,000.

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