Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Downsizing Government

On Monday, May 10, I chaired the last meeting of the Brown/Nicollet/Cottonwood Water Quality Board. Due to lack of funding, this board, after existing for over 20 years is officially going into "inactive" status, as of June 1, 2010. This will mean that the board will pay any final bills, and will carry liability insurance coverage, but will terminate the present employees (two) and will not be able to take on any new water quality projects or programs.

This board consists of two county commissioners from each of the three counties: Cottonwood, Brown, and Nicollet. The decision to become inactive was not taken without a lot of research, thought, and study. In the past this board dealt with projects such as the St. Peter Wellhead protection program, the Little Cottonwood River project, township water testing in every township of the three counties; and has administered programs to encourage septic system upgrades. The agency has provided huge educational programs such as the Red Top Farms program. This program monitored tile lines in comparable fields using a variety of cropping and fertilizing systems. Every year, the agency was part of the Children's Water Festival that offered the opportunity for a day long event for all 4th graders in the three counties.

Recently the agency has been a part of a conservation drainage program located in Traverse township on Nicollet County ditch 29. During its lifetime, the agency has done extensive monitoring of the Seven Mile Creek watershed. Because this watershed is made up of large numbers of cropped acres and also is home to livestock operations as well as out-letting in a typical ravine terrain that means extensive bluff erosion, Seven Mile has become a showcase of the typical challenges and successes of many watersheds throughout the Minnesota River Valley.

The board made the decision to become inactive rather than to dissolve. There were several reasons for this decision. A significant reason is that this agency is one of the major players in the Middle Minnesota Watershed. There are efforts on the state level to demand all water quality programs to be handled by watershed organizations. If that mandate comes, Brown/Nicollet/Cottonwood Water Quality Board will be poised to become a strong active board. The cost of dissolving and the cost of becoming inactive was almost the same. Since this board is a joint powers board, there are significant costs to restarting a board that has been dissolved. By becoming inactive, the board will need to hold one meeting a year (by conference call). END

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