By Scott Henderson, Sauk River Watershed District administrator

Early in the development process of the 1953 Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act, “It became clear that many believed that watershed districts should be run by people somewhat removed from the political process, so they would be able to make tough and possibly unpopular decisions without worrying about political consequences. To facilitate this, it was agreed that watershed district managers would be appointed, rather than elected.” – Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts.

While watershed district board members do take into consideration the residents within the watershed boundary, their primary focus is on protecting and improving the quality of the water resources – the lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.

Watershed districts have several different ways of funding water quality projects and programs, and much of that structure is laid out in Minnesota State Statute 103D. A board member’s charge is to evaluate the current and future impacts a project and the resulting funding decision will have on water quality first and foremost. Cost and impact to individual landowners is taken into consideration, but it is also compared to the cost of not keeping our waters useable for recreation and consumption.

Here in Minnesota, we are fortunate to have an abundance of surface water resources to use for fishing, swimming, irrigation and industry. Minnesota also has a large amount of groundwater resources which supply approximately 75% of the state’s drinking water, while surface water supplies the other 25%. Watershed districts, along with other state and local agencies, are charged with the task of keeping healthy bodies of water healthy, and improving water bodies that are unhealthy or impaired.

Any questions or concerns on information in this article may be directed to the Sauk River Watershed District at srwd@srwdmn.org or 320-352-2231.

Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.