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Local Water Plan receives board approval

Hubbard County’s Local Water Management Plan for 2016-2026 earned commissioners’ approval this week, the document “committed to protecting, preserving and improving water resources in Hubbard County,” as administered by the Soil and Water Conservation District.  The plan, which will be reviewed again in five years, has been approved by BWSR (Board of Soil and Water Resources), SWCD director Julie Kingsley told the board.  The updated plan is based on watersheds, as opposed to lakes and streams, as had been the previous process, she said.  Aquatic invasive species are cited as “a priority concern,” the result of feedback from the LWMP task force, state agencies and citizen feedback, AIS having emerged since the 2007 version of the HCLWP.  In Hubbard County, 65 percent of the tax base is on water-influenced properties, the report states.

“If the waters within Hubbard County become infested, the county could see a reduction in property values, causing a major shift in revenue. Recreation and tourism are major economic factors within Hubbard County. At this time, Hubbard County is in a ‘protection’ mode and is trying to prevent the introduction of AIS to its waters.”  Hubbard County is covered by three major watersheds - Mississippi River Headwaters, Leech Lake River and Crow Wing River – and 89 minor watersheds.  The minor watersheds have been ranked according to risk where water quality is shown to be stable or improving, declining or impaired, or variable depending on the amount of land use disturbance.  Through the HCLWMP update process, four priority concerns were identified to focus water management efforts in the next 10 years.  These are AIS, surface water quality and quantity improvement and protection, groundwater quality and quantity improvement and protection and land use and habitat protection for water quality, the summary explains.  

The plan notes that “in the past year there has been a large conversion of forested land to agricultural lands, most of which have center pivot irrigation systems. This is creating a major change within each watershed as to how groundwater flows, the amount of groundwater available and the use of pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides in areas that were once forested.  

“All of these are of great concern for the protection of groundwater,” the plan states.  “Another county wide concern that could affect all the priority concern areas identified in the LWMP are the existing oil and gas pipelines in Hubbard County, presenting the possibility of spills or ruptures in any of the lines that would affect the surface water, ground water and land use.  “Getting to spill sites in remote areas and working in multiple water-related environments has the potential for introduction of AIS to those water bodies,” the plan states. There are currently five buried oil pipelines in the northern and western borders of Hubbard County.  

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has environmental oversight of pipelines in Minnesota, the report explains, and would handle pipeline related incidents.  “Hubbard County has a Pipeline Emergency Response Procedure in place through the county’s emergency management office.  “Hubbard SWCD does administration and enforcement of the Wetland Conservation Act under the guidance of BWSR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who would have overarching responsibility if there were incidents with any of the pipelines,” the plan explains.  The full LWMP is available at the SWCD website at www.hubbardswcd.org.  In other action, commissioners:  

- Approved a revised joint powers agreement with SWCD for the administration of the Wetland Conservation Act, eliminating the need for annual renewal.  n Approved, regarding the county’s role in administration of the AIS program, the auditor/treasurer as fiscal agent. The AIS Watercraft Inspection and Decontamination (WID) position will be managed within the Environmental Services Office.  The AIS Task Force will continue their duties in 2016 as in previous years, with the understanding that management of the AIS coordinator position will subsequently be transferred from the task force to ESO.  

- Approved the appointment of Paul Johanning to the Extension committee as the at-large representative to complete a term through 2018.  

- Approved contract renewal with the state for a long-term homeless grant, with MAHUBE-OTWA the sub-grantee.  The award amount is $1.455 million for 2016 through 2017 with eight agencies funded, serving 23 counties in the northwest corner of the state.  “We are estimating we will serve 266 new households with 665 beneficiaries within those households,” Marcia Otte, MAHUBE-OTWA family development director, told commissioners.   MAHUBE-OTWA is projecting to serve 62 new households with 104 beneficiaries in Hubbard, Mahnomen, Becker, Otter Tail and Wadena counties.  White Earth, Leech Lake and Red Lake tribes are no longer part of this grant and have their own tribal grants, Otte explained.  The optimum goal is job training, to work out a plan to stabilize households, MAHUBE-OTWA executive director Leah Pigatti told commissioners.  

- Learned Heartland Bus will expand hours beginning March 1, adding Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings until 7 p.m. This will be on a 15-week pilot project basis to determine ridership.

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