It has been a busy few months with exciting changes at MAWD. These changes are a direct result of efforts laid out in the strategic plan from countless hours put in by dedicated watershed district managers and staff who wanted the organization to expand services and were willing to make investments to make that happen! Here’s the latest:
OFFICE. An official office was opened in January and is co-located with Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District in Chanhassen, MN. See the top of the page for our new address and phone.
STAFFING. Emily Javens started full time as the Executive Director on January 1, 2018. A contract was extended to Ray Bohn, former MAWD Coordinator, to serve as the organization’s contract lobbyist for 2018. Maddy Bohn’s role as a part-time contract program manager for MAWD events and social media outreach remains unchanged.
Education and Events
The mission of MAWD, as written in the strategic plan, is to provide educational opportunities, information, and training for watershed district managers and staff throughout yearly tours, meetings, and regular communication. Here is an update on MAWD events and efforts to further enhance educational opportunities this year.
TRAINING WORK PLAN. Along with the MN Association of Watershed Administrators (MAWA) education committee, a training work plan has been drafted and implementation of it Watershed District Administrators meeting before the MAWD Legislative Reception and Breakfast. has begun. Feedback from the work plan is being reviewed and a final draft of the work plan will be distributed soon. Please contact your administrator for more details.
LEGISLATIVE RECEPTION AND BREAKFAST. The annual legislative reception and breakfast was held on March 7-8. 82 watershed district managers and staff attended, along with Senators Carrie Ruud, Bill Weber, Steve Cwodzinski, and Kent Eken; and Representatives Jeff Backer, Dave Baker, and Mary Kunesh-Podein. Both the MAWD Board of Directors and MAWA held meetings in conjunction with the event. A special thank you to everyone who followed up and met with your legislators during this event! The more we tell our stories, the more we will be recognized!
SUMMER TOUR. We are finalizing the details of the summer tour, hosted by the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District, Lower MN Watershed District, and Carver Water Management Organization. The event will be held June 20-22 and includes a barge tour down the Minnesota River, a bus tour, and staff and leadership training. Registration will open in mid-April. Stay tuned!
EDUCATION COMMITTEE. The MAWD Board voted to re-establish the education committee. The goals and tasks of the committee are being reviewed, along with all other committees, at a special board workshop on April 6th.
MAWD is actively working on the following bills that have been successfully introduced. Activities involved in moving a bill forward include writing the bill language, finding legislators willing to sponsor your bill, meeting with entities that oppose your ideas, testifying at hearings, etc. More information on legislative activities will continue to be distributed in separate updates emailed to administrators.
• House File (HF) 3908/Senate File (SF) 3647 – A bill that would substantially reduce the overlap between Total One Watershed One Plans (1W1Ps).
• HF3836/SF3410 – A bill that would allow watershed districts to apply for loans through the AgBMP loan program on behalf of multiple landowners for the installation of ditch buffers. The bill would also allow a simpler runoff and sediment delivery calculation to be used when assessing the costs of ditch repairs.
• HF3834/SF3499 – A bill that would specify that watershed district managers can attend board meetings via electronic television (ex. Skype) if they are located outside of the watershed district jurisdiction.
• HF2456/SF3077 – A bill that would fix the language in our project levy statute that says we can levy funds to match Clean Water Partnership grants (a program that no longer exists.) This bill would allow watershed districts to use that levy authority to match other types of grants, such as Clean Water Funds.
We are monitoring the following bills and meeting with the authors to discuss:
• HF2989/SF3407 – A bill that would require metro watershed districts to incorporate practices that slow down the flow of water into their comprehensive watershed management plans.
• HF3805/SF3379 – A bill that would change multiple facets of watershed district authorities.
MAWD staff are committed to increasing communication with and between members in 2018. So far this year we have made the following improvements and look forward to expanding these efforts.
WEBSITE. We launched a new website and continue to make enhancements. Check it out and let us know if there is information you would like to see added!
NEWS EMAILS. We started the following email news features that are sent out to administrators. More collections will be added as additional relevant themes are identified.
• MAWD NEWS on TRAINING: news on upcoming training events
• MAWD NEWS on FUNDING: news on funding opportunities for watershed districts
QUARTERLY NEWSLETTERS. We started a quarterly newsletter to keep members up-to-date. For now, they will be distributed to via email to administrators who are in turn asked to distribute them to managers and staff.
Over the past three months, Javens along with many partners, has been busy advocating on behalf of watershed districts. Here is a sampling of those efforts.
Local Government Water Round Table (LGWRT). The LGWRT is a partnership between the Association of MN Counties (AMC), the MN Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts (MASWCD) and MAWD. The partnership works together to advance common water-related issues facing local governments. Staff from the three organizations speak on a weekly basis and recently submitted a letter to Governor Dayton asking for his support on various legislative issues. The letter prompted a request from his Water Advisor, Anna Henderson, for a meeting to discuss in more detail.
Clean Water Council. Javens, along with Yellow Medicine River WD Administrator Michelle Overholser and RESPEC Consultant Julie Blackburn, presented the story of the Yellow Medicine One Watershed One Plan initiative to the Clean Water Council in March.
Drainage Work Group. The MAWD Board selected Tim Dritz, Yellow Medicine River WD and MAWD Board member, and Harvey Kruger, Heron Lake Watershed District to represent watershed districts on the Drainage Work Group for the upcoming year. Javens will also serve on the workgroup, as well as various subcommittees.
MN Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).
Javens meets regularly with BWSR staff to discuss issues such as BWSR Academy, One Watershed One Plan, and drainage issues. Upon request of Tera Guetter, Pelican River WD, Javens facilitated the opportunity for watershed districts who elected jurisdiction of the buffer law to access information stored in BuffCAT, the software program used by SWCDs to track compliance of each parcel in a county with the buffer law.
MN Pollution Control Agency. Javens also meets regularly with Glenn Skuta, watershed division director, on various issues. Most of the meetings so far have focused on how the efforts of the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) are overlapping unnecessarily with local watershed planning. Thank you to Mark Doneux, Capitol Region WD, for assisting with issues specific to the metro.
404 Assumption Committee. The MAWD Board selected Phil Belfiori, Rice Creek WD and Javens to represent watershed district interests on this committee that has been exploring the option for Minnesota to take over Section 404 Permitting, eliminating the Army Corps of Engineers from some permitting activities. One meeting was held this quarter that updated the group on recent activities.
G16. MAWD participated in the “G16” meetings. The group is made up of 16 organizations that originally formed in 2003 to discuss policy issues surrounding impaired waters. The group recently began meeting again to evaluate whether current efforts are heading the right direction. A report summarizing the findings will be out this summer.
Written by: Emily Javens, MAWD Executive Director
March 7, 2018
The legislation is moving surprising slow considering the short session deadline. Our first policy committee deadline is March 22nd, the second and final policy deadline is one week later or March 29th, and the third finance committee deadline on April 20th. So, there is not much time to move bills along in the process and committee time is at a premium.
The February 28th revenue forecast was far below most expectations at the capitol. Most were expecting some number in the $800 million to $1 billion in surplus funds. It ended up to be much closer to $350 million. Because the state residents will see a $550 million increase in taxes due to the Federal bill, the tax committees need to try and bring our tax laws into conformity to the new federal law. All in a short three-month session.
Unless everyone agrees to all aspects of the conformity legislation, it may well be near impossible to accomplish that goal.
And after all, is done with the tax conformity, there will be little remaining for other aspects of state and local governments.
Presently we are moving ahead on several initiatives which are outlined below:
Clean Water Fund spending: There is around $3 million remaining in the CWF that can be dispersed this year. In addition, the $22 million moved from the CWF to be used for SWCD operating cost was returned to the CWF because it was backfilled by the state general fund due to the surplus. So that leaves $25 million in the account to spend this year. The CWF Budget Committee last week voted to recommend to the Clean Water Council the following recommended appropriations:
- Completive Grants: $5 million
- Forest for the Future: $1 million
- 1WS/1Plan $4.4 million
- UofM $0.34 million
- CREP $15.0 million
MAWD supports this recommendation for the distribution of funds.
General fund levy increases for non-metro WDs: Legislation is drafted but we need help to find authors for this legislation. If you think your legislators would be willing to support and author this legislation on our behalf please ask them if they would author this legislation.
Statutory clarification for use of project levy funds with state funds: HF2456-Baker/SFXXXX-Lang clarifies that we can use this project levy account for additional money appropriated by law for grants or loans to the district instead of only the Clean Water Partnership Grants. This means we would be able to use this levy to leverage/match funding from the Clean Water Fund, Legacy, LCCMR, etc. This would give us much more flexibility to compete for these funds and to keep our project levies lower for projects. The Senate file will be introduced on Thursday, March 8th.
Electronic meeting attendance Open Meeting law: This legislation will allow managers to attend meetings using the interactive TV. The bill is being drafted (see attached language) and will be authored by Sen. Johnson in the Senate. The House author is TBD.
Bonding requests (CREP, flood hazard mitigation, etc.): This last week, the Senate Environment Committee met to hear presentation by agencies on their capital investment requests. The Department of Natural Resources has requested $20 million in bonding requests this year of which Governor Dayton approved and made a part of his capital budget request. The House and Senate Bonding committees have also begun to hear presentations on bonding requests. We have met with both Suzy Geroux and Gavin Hansen, Committee Administrators, for the Senate and the House, respectively to discuss the high priority that funding flood damage reduction projects is to businesses and the people in Minnesota. We have also had the chance to speak with the Department of Natural Resources about introducing language requesting more than the $20 million recommended by Governor Dayton in the Department of Natural Resources annual funding request. (provided by Lisa Frenette, RRWDB Lobbyist)
HF2940Bliss/SF 2637Ingebrigsten: This legislation that prohibits MPCA from increasing it fees was heard this week in the Senate Environment Finance Committee. The bill, as amended, would prohibit the Pollution Control Agency from increasing water fees unless the increases were statutorily approved. Municipalities and businesses have taken issue with possible amendments to the rules governing water quality fees. Legislators and major stakeholders believe that the PCA should perform a comprehensive overview of the many water quality programs under its purview and prioritize water quality programs that benefit the state before increasing its water quality fees to pay for programs. (provided by Lisa Frenette, RRWDB Lobbyist)
- Drainage workgroup legislation: a. Recommendations for Accelerating Public Drainage System Acquisition and Establishment of Buffer Strips and Alternative Practices: A Report to the Legislature, (February 1, 2018). Legislation has been drafted by/for the stakeholder Drainage Work Group to address 7 of the 15 recommendations in the report, for which there is consensus support by the DWG. We will be working to secure authors for this bill to pass 7 recommendations from the DWG.
- Runoff and Sediment Delivery Option for Repair Cost Apportionment: This legislation will probably not be introduced this session. The DWG has been unable to reach an agreement on all aspects of this legislation. It would contain the following elements if introduced.
- Enable a relative runoff and relative sediment delivery option in Chapter 103E for drainage system repair cost apportionment. This option is not a requirement and is for repairs only.
- Increase the utilization of technology for apportionment of drainage system repair costs.
- Better enable equitable repair cost apportionment to properties using the drainage system, without conducting a redetermination of benefits and damages.
- Potentially reduce the time and cost of equitably apportioning repair costs.
- Provide incentive in Chapter 103E to reduce runoff and sediment delivery to a drainage system.
Watershed planning and implementation coordination: This pending legislation represents an agreement between state agencies and LGUs on how to better coordinate activities and funding in the future for TMDLs and WRAPS by making allowances for local plans and implementation on TMDL and WRAPS required by the MPCA. This is the first time state agencies are giving formal recognition to the local plans and program activities. This will bring greater use of our data which will reduce the cost of planning because our plans and programming will substitute for the TMDLs and WRAPS if approved by the MPCA and the EPA. This will eliminate duplication of planning efforts and move more funds to implement our water quality programs. We hope to move this important bill forward this session.
Update on other legislative priorities
Stormwater Reuse Task Force: We are presently holding on this legislation until the final report is released by the MN Dept. of Health.
Commercial salt applicator / limited liability protection legislation: This legislation appears to be generating a lot of support at the capitol, but the group that is drafting the legislation and taking the lead on their proposed legislation still has not produced a bill. Once it is introduced, we will review and see if it is some we can get behind.
By: Ray Bohn, MAWD Lobbyist
We are excited to announce the launch of our redesigned MAWD website!
This new website will provide an opportunity for MAWD to showcase the positive impacts our watershed districts in their communities in all corners of the state are making.
We invite you to visit often to read updates which will be featured on our blog. Thanks for visiting and enjoy!
Emily will start her new role on January 1, 2018.