By Jon Roeschlein, ditch and permit manager, Sauk River Watershed District

When planning to do construction activities, many know that it involves acquiring permits. Many hear the word “permit” and think “this will keep me from doing my project.” On the contrary, no permitting agency has that as its goal. Rather, these agencies provide expertise and guidance to the public that otherwise may not be available.

The Sauk River Watershed District (SRWD) has developed administrative rules to use as a tool to further their mission. That mission is “To apply our unique abilities and authorities in ways that protect and enhance our watershed’s waters and natural resources for today and tomorrow.” The SRWD Administrative Rules are developed to assist and guide the implementation of construction projects, with the primary focus on the water resource. These rules are the backbone of the SRWD Permit Program.

The administrative rules identify several areas where the SRWD regulates land use to the extent that it will affect the water resource within its jurisdiction. The rules require permits for many activities that residents may wish to implement on the landscape. There are four areas in which the SRWD regulates activity. This article discusses 1) Any development that will increase runoff from a property; 2) land disturbance activity that could increase erosion and sedimentation; 3) drainage work that could increase volume and/or velocity of water; and 4) the installation of structures that affect how water will move across the landscape.

  1. When commercial developers or individuals plan to undertake a project that will increase the amount of runoff from their property by increasing the area in which water will no longer be able to soak into the ground, such as constructing a parking lot, large building with roads, a community development, solar arrays. etc., they are required to treat that runoff to remove sediments and nutrients before allowing it to leave their property. A stormwater permit is required for this activity.

  2. When an activity that requires the disturbance of more than 200 square feet of the ground, within 500 feet of a lake, river, stream, wetland or any other waterbody, an erosion control permit is required. Projects that might require this permit include new construction of a lake home, roadwork near a stream or wetland, even construction or expansion of a manufacturing plant. Gardens under 1,200 square feet and typical agricultural activities are exempt.

  3. Any drainage work that is new or an improvement to the existing facility would require a drainage permit from the SRWD. Proposed tile lines of 12 inch diameter or greater, new or enlarged drainage ditches that can increase the volume and/or velocity of water, any work within the right of way of a legal ditch established under Minnesota Statutes 103E, all require this permit.

  4. Any type of structure such as a culvert, bridge, dam, dike, etc. that would affect how water moves across the landscape, would require a water use permit from the SRWD. Moving the water too fast or holding too much of it back can be detrimental to the water resource as a whole. It could be erosive if too much of it is passed too swiftly or it could cause flood problems if too much is held back for too long of a period.

By requiring a permit for these activities, the SRWD assists with the proper completion of them in a way that the water resource is preserved or improved for the benefit of the public. This service does require a fee to be collected. That way those that are conducting the activities that require a permit, are paying for the service. The goal is not to hinder progress, rather to assist with the planning and implementation of practices to protect and improve the water resource for all.

For more information, log on to or contact the SRWD Ditch and Permit Manager at 320-352-2231 for assistance.