2018 MAWD Update - Quarter 1

Administration

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.

Legislative Activity

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.

Communications

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.

Advocacy

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