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Initially organized in 1960, enlarged in 1976 following the 1975 summer storm, and enlarged again in 2012, the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) now covers approximately 1,785 square miles in parts of Clay, Becker, Wilkin, and Otter Tail Counties. Our current mission statement reads, “To alleviate flooding and to manage the water resources of the District in the manner that best protects this valuable resource.” One of BRRWD’s primary goals is to address damages caused by flooding. The recent wet cycle we experienced (1993-2011) reinforced the need for flood damage reduction (fdr). The BRRWD has been able to complete several fdr projects, including Whisky Creek Tributaries, northwest of Barnesville; Stony Creek Detention, northeast of Barnesville; Hay Creek Detention, between Barnesville and Hawley; Stinking Lake Detention, northwest of Lake Park; and our most recent project in 2015, the Manston Slough Restoration. Because of the diversity found throughout the BRRWD, the BRRWD has been broken down into nine individual planning regions. Each of these regions has runoff volume reduction goals, measured in terms of acre-feet of storage. Our current Revised Watershed Management Plan identifies the need for 150,000-175,000 acre-feet of storage across the District. While we’ve had some major accomplishments, there is a need for additional fdr projects throughout the District.
The BRRWD uses the Mediation Agreement Project Team process, identified by the Red River Basin Flood Damage Reduction Work Group (RRBFDRWG), where six to eight meetings are held annually with our various partners, including federal, state, and local agencies, as well as landowners, to identify and advance project development on sites that can provide both fdr and natural resource enhancement (nre) benefits.
Please plan on attending one of our upcoming Forums. All meetings will follow the same agenda, but have been located throughout the District for convenience. Meetings will be held from 9:00 AM to Noon, followed by a free lunch. Meetings will be held on Tuesday, March 15, at the Gerald Nordick farmstead, 2675 250th ST, Rothsay, MN; Friday, March 18, BRRWD office, 1303 4th AVE NE, Barnesville, MN; and Tuesday, March 22, American Legion, Lake Park, MN.
The Cost of FDR and Ways to Finance
FDR project development can be complex. We need sites that are capable of storing water, a source for that water, soils on site that are conducive to holding water, and most importantly, landowners within a proposed storage area who are willing to work with the BRRWD. Once a site is identified, and the initial criteria are met, then preliminary engineering work is done, a geotechnical investigation is completed, the permitting process is started, and last but not least, we need to search for the necessary funding to construct a project.
FDR project costs can vary from $1,000 per acre-foot of storage (low end) to $2,000 per acre-foot of storage (high end). The BRRWD is currently working on several sites that could hold 8,000-10,000 acre-feet of temporary water containment. The cost for a site capable of holding 8,000 acre-feet could range from $8-$16 million. Ways to finance this type of project include general taxation across the BRRWD. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has funding available through their FDR program, which is usually handled through the State Legislature’s bonding process. The State of Minnesota could fund up to 50% of a project’s costs. Other funding sources include the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), (lottery proceeds) and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) (sales tax). The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has several programs such as Wetlands Reserve Enhancement (WRE), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).
Another option would be for the BRRWD to rejoin the Red River Watershed Management Board (RRWMB). This organization was formed in the Red River Basin of the North in Minnesota following the 1975 summer flood as a way to levy for fdr projects. The BRRWD was a RRWMB member from 1981-2002. At the present time, the BRRWD is considering rejoining that organization as a funding source for future fdr projects. The current taxable market value of the BRRWD is $7,856,233,700. If we were a RRWMB member in 2016, their taxation would raise $2,849,456. Of this amount, the BRRWD would keep one-half of the proceeds and the other half would be remitted to the RRWMB to redistribute to their members for fdr projects that meet their criteria. The BRRWD’s total tax levy in 2016 is $1,421,927. Part of this general levy would be replaced with the local one-half of the RRWMB’s funds. Had we been a RRWMB member in 2016, the total BRRWD levy would have increased to $3,099,456, or approximately 2.2 times greater than the current levy. We understand that this is an important issue to the taxpayers of our District and ask that you consider attending one of our upcoming Forums to learn more about our fdr goals, the cost of fdr, and possible ways to finance future fdr projects.