August 31, 2015-Bemidji, MN- The Northwest Minnesota Foundation (NMF) awarded a $25,000 grant to the West Polk Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Crookston. The SWCD is applying on behalf of a collaborative of seven local government units (LGUs). The collaborative of watershed districts and SWCD’s stretches along the Red Lake River from northern Beltrami and Clearwater counties west to the Red River.

In 2012 the Minnesota legislature adopted new guidelines for water planning at the local government level. One of the methods allowed was the composition of a comprehensive watershed management plan. In response to this, there were five watersheds in the state to undergo this new process as pilot areas, including the Red Lake River Watershed. This new process is called “One Watershed, One Plan”.

One of the challenges of this new planning effort is the collaboration of seven local governmental units who typically have not had to work together in the past. The goal of the group is to understand each other’s respective priorities, collaborate, and develop a 10-year comprehensive plan for management.

“Civic engagement can be challenging for local governments with very small staff and resources,” said Nate Dorr, NMF Program Officer – Grants.  “A major goal is to provide one larger planning process to eliminate redundancies and reduce planning costs for local counties and watershed districts.”

The general public can expect to see results immediately as well as long-term, according to Nicole Bernd, West Polk County’s District Manager. “This grant will result in a plan with prioritized, targeted and measurable implementation actions that meet or exceed current water plan content standards,” said Bernd. “This plan will also increase the efficiency of State and Federal funds towards identified water quality projects.”

As a pilot for the One Watershed, One Plan program, the Red Lake River watershed has the opportunity to be a model for other watershed planning efforts in Northwest Minnesota and across the state over the next ten years.