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Merging of watershed districts?

At the Jan. 20 meeting of the Afton City Council, the council and the residents in attendance heard a presentation from Tim Power, the Afton representative to the Lower St. Croix Watershed Management Organization (LSCWMO,) about the future of LSCWMO.

Discussions about the possibility of merging LSCWMO, which is a joint powers agreement between Afton, Denmark Township, Cottage Grove and Hastings, into either the Valley Branch Watershed District (VBWD) or the South Washington Watershed District(SWWD) have been ongoing since 1999.

Afton is currently part of LSCWMO, VBWD and the Middle St. Croix Watershed Management Organization(MSCWMO).

When discussions about merging LSCWMO into VBWD first started, many issues arose regarding representation, higher costs and the perceived differences between the areas.

The possibility of a merger has gained new ground recently because the administrative and watershed-wide costs have been hurting LSCWMO because they are so small and these costs are eating up a significant portion of their annual income and these costs are continuing to rise.

Power will be meeting with both VBWD and SWWD on Feb. 11 to make a recommendation that LSCWMO merge into both watershed districts. Representatives from the other members of the Joint Powers Agreement will make their recommendations as well. Hastings chose not to have representation.

"South Washington and Valley Branch have very different ways of operating, but both do an effective job of managing their water resources," Power said.

Power said he believes that splitting the LSCWMO into two watershed districts will be the most effective measure to take. He is recommending the area of the LSCWMO that drains into the St. Croix River be part of VBWD and the area of the LSCWMO that drains into the Mississippi River merge into the SWWD.

The Afton City Council agreed with Power's recommendation and members said they believe that this type of merger would be the most effective and make the most sense.

Before the LSCWMO can move forward with this recommendation, it must first be approved by two out of three members of the Joint Powers Agreement.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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