By Emily Bialkowski
The topic of choice during a lean Sept. 26 Houston County Board meeting was the Root River Soil and Water Conservation District five year Water Plan Revision.
The 10-year plan is required by the state, as is a revision halfway through the document’s life to make sure any appropriate changes are made.
Ron Meiners, district manager, was granted an extension on the revision because he was just coming on board when the work was due. The extension allowed the manager the opportunity to gain additional knowledge about the area’s needs.
The revised plan has since been worked on with diligence to focus on five main goals:
• Protect ground water to maintain an adequate supply of safe drinking water for current and future generations.
• Improve surface water quality in rivers and streams in Houston County.
• Manage storm water runoff to minimize risk to human life, property and the environment.
• Optimize recreational uses of water resources.
• Review of local and regional plans and ordinances for compliance and compatibility.
The county’s water is a valuable resource. From recreation and fishing to agricultural needs, water quality can be a divisive issue.
“We want farmers to do well,” Meiners said. “It’s a delicate balance between conservation ethics and profit margins; that’s where we struggle and try to partner with landowners to come together at the table to do the best job we can.”
The plan does not go into issues surrounding the potential for frac sand mines other than a sentence acknowledging it’s there.
Meiners said he could see the topic gaining more attention in a new water plan due in 2017. For now, no frac sand mines have opened in the county and Meiners remains a resource in that discussion.
Commissioner Judy Storlie asked if rented farmland – and practices performed on it – affect water. Meiners said there is certainly a difference between owner-operated and renter-operated farms. He said his department tries to engage those landowners.
“Being able to educate and explain to people the fragile resources in Houston County, and how quickly they can deteriorate if you don’t take care of them, is part of our work,” Meiners said.
Other interesting points of conversation included the fact that a decrease in livestock numbers has surfaced along with a decrease in hay production. Row crop production has increased.
The report was greeted with appreciation for the thoughtful work put into revising the water plan and was unanimously approved.
“They have put a lot of time into this. There’s been a lot of input, and they’ve done due diligence. I think it’s a great piece of documentation,” Commissioner Dana Kjome said. Kjome also sits on the water plan advisory board.
The plan will now be sent to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources for final approval. To the view the document, visit http://co.houston.mn.us and click on “Soil and Water” under the departments.
The board addressed a few others topics prior to adjournment.
Approval was given on a detour agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for work on the Badger Hill section of Highway 76 in October. The road will be closed for approximately three weeks and traffic will be detoured to County Highway 10.
The board agreed to hire Cathy Hagen as a 67-day, temporary home health aid.
Finally, the board voted to go into closed session to review allegations of misconduct by a county employee. After more than an hour of discussion, the board resumed open session with no action taken.