Dickinson County Supervisors County Approve Watershed Agreement
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
By Seth Boyes – Staff Writer, Dickinson County News

A new water quality organization is making its way onto the agendas of some local governments.

An agreement with the Little Sioux Watershed Coalition appeared on the Tuesday agenda of both the Dickinson County Board of Supervisors’ and the Okoboji City Council. County Supervisor Mardi Allen said watershed groups are becoming more common and indicated the groups are preferred by the state when providing funding for water-related projects. Supervisor Pam Jordan said groups like the coalition were formed after major flooding in the Cedar Rapids area in 2008.

“This was a legislative response in 2010 — to form these water management authorities, which are based not on lake watershed but rivers,” Supervisor Pam Jordan said. “So we have to be part of a river system. Flooding is the main reason they set this up but water quality is another reason.”

Allen said the coalition cannot compel its members to contribute funds, cannot tax the public or put the public in debt.

“The purpose of this coalition is to form and be able to give federal and state funding for water quality projects,” Allen said.

Assistant Dickinson County Attorney Lonnie Saunders gave the agreement a cursory look during the session and determined Allen was correct. He said another section of the agreement addresses representatives serving roles on both the watershed coalition and another organization — such as a local government body. It specifies funds cannot be committed to the coalition by a single representative but must be approved by a board or similar overseeing group.

The Little Sioux Watershed also includes areas of Jackson County, Minnesota, but Allen said the state currently prevents the coalition from crossing the Iowa border. However, she indicated the coalition would work in tandem with watershed groups in Jackson County. Allen estimated 15 watershed groups have been chartered in Iowa.

In order to form the watershed coalition, a number of entities must be offered partnership in the 28E agreement, including the county government, all of the cities within Dickinson County, certain entities in Osceola County and the Dickinson County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“They all have to be invited,” Jordan said. “They’re not compelled to join. It takes only two entities to form a 28E that will stick.”

The county hopes to form the Little Sioux Watershed Coalition by the first of the year. Jordan said the agreement allows other entities to join the watershed authority at a later date. In addition, entities may be able to join multiple watershed authorities.

Supervisor Paul Johnson said a recent presentation in Lake Park by state representative and Dickinson County Clean Water Alliance Coordinator John Wills had given him confidence and motioned the agreement be approved. The motion quickly passed unanimously.