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Crow Wing County Board: Crow Wing partners with Cass to protect watershed

Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Melissa Barrick steps to the mic at Tuesday's county board meeting to voice her support for a "One Watershed, One Plan" for managing the Pine River. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
Map of the Pine River Watershed that spans Crow Wing and Cass counties in the Upper Mississippi River Basin. Submitted photo2 / 2

Crow Wing County and Cass County just got a little cozier.

The Crow Wing County Board authorized entering into a memorandum of agreement between Cass County and the Cass and Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation districts for the Pine River Watershed "One Watershed, One Plan."

"Water doesn't necessarily stop at an invisible county line," Land Services Director Gary Griffin told the board at its Tuesday meeting.

The vision of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, or BWSR, for the One Watershed, One Plan is "to align local water planning on major watershed boundaries with state strategies towards prioritized, targeted, and measurable implementation plans."

"By having a shared watershed plan, which the Board of Water and Soil Resources recognize as a better way of doing business, you can better identify and prioritize where the greatest need and the actual best environmental impacts could be between the counties," Griffin explained.

The Pine River Watershed in the Upper Mississippi River Basin includes Breezy Point and Emily in Crow Wing County, for example, and Backus and Outing in Cass County, just to name a few.

"I will once again renew my hesitation to the One Watershed, One Plan," Commissioner Paul Thiede said. "I've been supportive of this along the way, I'm not going to relinquish my support at this point either."

Thiede mentioned his hope that former longtime county employee Chris Pence, who recently quit as division manager for Crow Wing County Environmental Services, would be of some help. Pence's new job is with the local BWSR in Brainerd.

"Maybe he's going to exert some influence and understand our concerns here, but this is an effort that is pushed more than just from the counties," Thiede said with Pence in the room.

The BWSR is authorized by legislation to adopt methods to allow comprehensive plans, local water management plans, or watershed management plans to serve as substitutes for one another; or to be replaced with one comprehensive watershed management plan.

"I remain a little bit skeptical that somewhere down the road we aren't going to be into some fights about allocation of resources that we, as a county, may find different than we do as a group, so I'm going to continue to express that hesitation," Thiede said.

According to the One Watershed, One Plan's proponents, the plan will create a shared understanding of the concepts of prioritized, targeted and measured. It would also foster agreement on the expectations, benefits and outcomes for implementing the plan.

"I think this is a great opportunity for the soil and water conservation districts and the counties to work together ... to protect these resources through that collaborative effort," Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Melissa Barrick said.

The plan will also create implementation activities that address the largest threats and provide the greatest measurable environmental benefit; an understanding of the procedures for

substituting or replacing all or portions of existing water plans; and an understanding of next steps for coordinated funding and implementation.

"The One Watershed, One Plan, as Mr. Thiede brought up, is new," Pence said. "It's brand new, and it's only gone through a half of a dozen other watersheds, so they are still trying to figure out how to do the actually planning.

"It's an opportunity for the county to come in and do some leadership and help develop how this looks because the One Watershed, One Plan is coming, and so it's a matter of really 'when,' not really a matter of 'if.'"

The policy committee will have county commissioner representation and will be key in the decision-making process, according to the One Watershed, One Plan. In 2015, the Comprehensive Watershed Management Planning legislation passed.

"This is definitely a locally driven process; this is not a state plan being forced on the counties. This is the counties and the districts being able to come together and know what needs to be done with their water resources," Pence said in reply to Thiede.

"There is some state initiatives and state involvement from state agencies that will be part of that process, but at the end of the day, it will be the counties' decision to choose what are its priorities and where does it want to target."

Commissioner Paul Koering said he had some misgivings about the county agreeing to the One Watershed, One Plan but credited Pence for explaining what agreeing to it would mean.

"I don't think this is more government. This is actually keeping control of the resource at a local level, and not having it being dictated from the state level," Pence said.

Thiede then made the motion to enter into a memorandum of agreement, which was seconded by Koering and approved by all.

In other business, the county board:

Approved the promotion of Erik Hidalgo, community services fraud prevention investigator.

Approved the hiring of Julie Charpentier, attorney's office victim services coordinator, and Gwen Carleton-Gillen, community services temporary case aide.

Accepted the departures of Colleen Jackson, community services accounting technician, and Cara Bengtson, administrative services business analyst.

Approved the purchase of a vehicle not to exceed $26,000 from donated and grant funds provided by local posts, clubs and organizations to replace a Grand Caravan with 247,000 miles.

Approved the advertising of sealed bids for 2018 highway projects in the county 2017-21

highway improvement plan. In addition, there are six maintenance-related projects that are to be bid.

Approved the applications of the Brainerd Lakes Curling Association for the temporary on sale of liquor on Dec. 31 and Feb. 11 at the Brainerd Lakes Curling Association Curling Club.

Approved supporting the applications for Minnesota lawful gambling exempt permits for Holy Family Church on Feb. 10 at the Holy Family Church Activity Center in Roosevelt and for Brainerd Jaycees on Jan. 27, at Hole-in-the-Day Bay, Unorganized Territory.

Approved authorizing participation in the local update of census addresses and designates the Administrative Services Office to be the point of contact for the county for 2020 Decennial Census information and updates.

Approved an application for funding from the Secretary of State for a voting equipment grant to purchase assistive voting technology, an electronic roster system, an electronic voting system, any individual component of an electronic voting system, or any other equipment or technology approved by the Secretary of State.

Approved a resolution for all conveyances of land within the county that constitute a subdivision or lot split under the county land use ordinance, the instrument conveying the

transfer must contain a certification by land services that the county's subdivision regulations do not apply or that the subdivision has been approved by land services.

Approved the re-classifying tax-forfeited property described as Lot 194, Fourteenth Addition to Breezy Point Estates as non-conservation status and the direct sale of the property to an adjoining landowner at the sale price of $500.

Approved the extension of the county water plan revision by two years to Dec. 31, 2020, to complete the Pine River "One Watershed, One Plan."

Authorize the county administrator to request proposals for contract for legal services for court-appointed attorneys for Child in Need of Protection or Services, Terminating Parental Rights, child support and commitment cases.

Approved the request from Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge to add an additional treatment site at 603 Oak St. that will serve adult women and men and to reflect it in a letter.

Approved the resolution to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails to protect the health, welfare and safety of its residents in efficient and cost-effective way.

Approved the appointments of Jon Norris and Mary Sam to the County Community Corrections Advisory Board.

Approved changing the time of the next county board meeting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 12 to coincide with the 6 p.m. public hearing for the 2018 Budget, Levy and Capital Improvement Plan.

Approved the adoption of the 2018 County Board calendar with board meetings to be, in general, at 9 a.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, and committee of the whole meetings to be at 9 a.m. on the third Tuesday.

Authorized the chair to send a letter of commitment for the Region Five Development Commission Regional Transportation Coordinating Council application.