County tackles water issues

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Last Tuesday, June 20, the Carver County Board of Commissioners voted to submit a petition to the MN State Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).
If approved, the tax changes will be implemented in 2018. The boundary changes mean 288 parcels of land will be transferred from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District(MCWD) to the Carver County Water Management Organization (CCWMO) and 96 from the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District(RPBCWD). With these revisions comes tax changes.

“WMO rates have held fairly steady while watershed district rates seem to bounce up and down,” said Paul Moline with the WMO. “Watershed rates are the highest I’ve seen them in several years.”

Moline said folks who are switching to the WMO will have lower taxes while the opposite will be true for those transferring out of it. The difference in rates in the WMO compared to the MCWD and the RPBCWD is about $30 according to Moline. Permitting will also be affected.

Moline assured the board that citizens time to voice any concerns or ask any questions is not over. Although now that the petition is approved it will be sent to BWSR, so any queries will have to made with them.

“BWSR has the final decision making authority,but landowners can request a hearing with them if they feel something is incorrect,” Moline said.

The proposal to petition the CCWMO boundary was made in 2016. Carver County staff proposed changes that would effectively relocate parcels of land in the MCWD and the RPBCWD so that they fall under the management of Carver County.

“The essential goal of this is to better align the taxing boundary of the watershed districts, mainly Minnehaha Creek, Riley Purgatory and the WMO, to what the actual water drainage is along that boundary,” Moline said.

The boundary has not been updated since 1967 according to Moline, specifically along the Minnehaha Creek Watershed. He said the watershed districts were created before the Carver County Water Management Organization was laid out, and the changes in drainage since the creation of the watershed boundaries haven’t been accounted for.

“They did do an amendment to the legal district in 1997, but really nothing has happened since that time,” Moline said in January. “We didn’t really have much of a role in that legal description when it was pulled together.”

Since the beginning of the watershed districts and the creation of their boundaries their have been many changes to eastern Carver County.

“Numerous subdivisions and developments have occurred some were off to begin with and were never really corrected,” Moline said.

When drainage issues arise, the WMO is not able to conduct projects, review permits or offer any cost-sharing related to properties outside of its district. Moline brought up Lake Bavaria, which falls under the responsibility of Carver County in terms of water management. What the current boundaries don’t account for is the water that flows into Lake Bavaria from upstream. He says that watershed districts tend to focus on water that drains into key water resources.

Carver County staff used GIS processes to look at the parcels that currently fall on the boundary of the WMO and evaluate the flow of the water. The recommended boundary changes are where more than 50 percent of the water drained into the Carver County management area.

“We identified parcels that are currently sort of taxed incorrectly, if you want to call it that,” Moline said.

In early June, county staff sent 460 letters to the affected landowners. The chamber approved the motion unanimously, now they will send the petition to BWSR and they will approve or disapprove the proposed boundary changes by July 2017.