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Deal reached in Woodbury, Cottage Grove dispute

Call it the pact that ended the stormwater spat.

The cities of Woodbury and Cottage Grove and other area governments have a tentative proposal for how a local watershed district dispute should be settled.

The local governments emerged recently from a mediation process with a compromise on watershed district boundaries and how stormwater should be managed in south Washington County. It will require official local government backing and state approval.

The watershed issue had pitted Woodbury against Cottage Grove and Denmark Township. A decision last year to shake up watershed management in south Washington County was viewed as beneficial to Cottage Grove and Denmark Township. A subsequent state ruling favored Woodbury at Cottage Grove and Denmark Township's expense.

The new petition is a compromise, Woodbury city administrator Clint Gridley said Wednesday.

"It's a balancing act between the parties," Gridley said. "It's a fair compromise."

The scientifically technical issue of stormwater management has basic financial implications for the local governments and for taxpayers. Local residents pay property taxes and fees to operate the watershed districts, and economic development can be affected by stormwater management decisions.

The proposal identifies new boundaries for the South Washington County Watershed District and the Valley Branch Watershed District, and would resolve a conflict over how stormwater projects are funded and managed.

With the new petition prepared, Cottage Grove and Denmark Township withdrew their case before the Minnesota Court of Appeals that sought to overturn a decision about how the watershed district boundaries would be drawn, Gridley said.

Woodbury is awaiting judgment on its own Court of Appeals case, which challenged an earlier ruling on how the watershed districts would be divided. Gridley said Woodbury will not withdraw its case because it already made oral arguments and expects a decision shortly. However, the intent is to seek action on the new petition regardless of the appeal outcome, he said.

"In some ways the result of the court will be moot," Gridley said.

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