County critiques water quality efforts

Speltz, the chair of the Winona County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) Board, is not the only local farmer seeing soil wash away.
“We should look at not expanding, but reducing” the number of agencies and programs focused on water quality, Winona County Board member Steve Jacob said.
“There is still too much pollution going on, but we’re doing more than ever.” Pollution problems Southeast Minnesota does have water pollution problems.
Manure and human waste — from fields, feedlots, septic tanks, and water treatment plants — also contribute to coliform bacteria contamination in local rivers, and soil erosion clouds trout streams.
Big farms are not the problem, others argued, but rather small, less-regulated farms.
On the state level, the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BSWR) doles out funding and sets guidelines for local SWCDs, watershed districts, and other agencies.
The MDA, MPCA, and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) all have different roles for overseeing water quality and working to improve it.
SEMWRB Director Linda Dahl said her organization is exploring the possibility of consolidating with another regional group, the Southeast Soil and Water Conservation Districts Technical Support Joint Powers Board.
In southern Winona County, the new Root River Watershed One Water One Plan (1W1P) Joint Powers Board would replace that, but Winona County will still have to maintain a water plan for the other two watersheds in the county.
Like it or not, Harmes added, sometimes the state and federal agencies require local government to complete studies before they are eligible for funding.

Learn More