Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Water management is all wet. Who's in charge?

Today we received a notice from our township supervisor alerting us to a proposal to expand the current Chisago Lakes Improvement (taxing) District [LID] to align with a new and improved watershed boundary. If the expansion is approved, properties newly added to the district will probably see an increase in taxes. Today's posting isn't about a tax increase however. That may or may not be the issue. I don't understand why the County Commissioners and the LID board can't provide a detailed set of maps that clearly delineates which properties are in and out of the current and proposed district and why. Here's some background:

St. Croix River Basin
The Sunrise River watershed isn't identified on this map

Further troubling my impression of a lack of rigorous accountability and focus on mission are these statements on the LID's web site:

"The Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District partners with other organizations such as Chisago Soil & Water Conservation District, local communities, lake associations, state and federal agencies.... The following fact sheets highlight 2014 Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District activities that benefit lakeshore, non-lakeshore, city, and rural residents.


Sunrise River Watershed
The yellow area is the Chisago Lakes District

Perhaps I wouldn't be as disturbed as I am if I hadn't recently been reading the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategy Report for the Sunrise River Watershed, prepared by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The Chisago Lakes watershed is part of the Sunrise River watershed, which is part of the Lower St. Croix River Watershed that is part of the Mississippi River Watershed. The WRAPS report notes
"Many key partners have been brought together to make this WRAPS Report a useable document that will ultimately help us to meet the goals of the Sunrise River Watershed and the Direct Drainage to the St. Croix River. These groups include: Anoka CD, Chisago SWCD, Isanti SWCD, Washington CD, Chisago County, MN DNR (Fisheries and Eco/Waters), MPCA, City of North Branch, City of Stacy, City of Wyoming, City of Shafer, City of Taylors Falls, USDA NRCS, Sunrise River Water Management Organization, Comfort Lake-Forest Lake Watershed District, Chisago Lakes Lake Improvement District, Linwood Lake Association, and Friends of the Sunrise River. These groups have collaborated with the Chisago SWCD to provide comments and additions specific to their subwatersheds. This collaboration will prove to be pivotal in applying for funding in the future to complete projects in each constituent’s jurisdiction."

Here's my basic complaint: Nowhere can I find a clearly laid out matrix of which agency or agency is responsible for which issue in which jurisdiction. Nowhere can I find a coordinated work program and budget that aligns resources with priorities. I'm not suggesting that all these folks aren't doing good and necessary work. I am stating unequivocally that we, the taxpayers and resource users, don't know. We'll report back here from time to time as we, hopefully, make some progress on this.

Issa’s Cricket

On a branch
floating downriver
a cricket, singing.

Issa (Japan, 1763-1827)

[translated by Jane Hirshfield]


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