The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 18, 2013

Minn. River Board votes to dissolve

The 17-year-old Minnesota River Board is no more.

After a passionate and often heated meeting this week in Olivia, members from the remaining counties involved in the board voted to disband, frustrating those who'd hoped for a new basin-wide group that would have a steady source of funding to do river improvement projects.

"If we can't take care of our soil and water in Minnesota, we're going to pay for it somehow. And we'll pay a lot more than if we did something now," said Blue Earth County Commissioner Drew Campbell, who sits on the board's executive committee and fought for the creation of a new basin-wide effort.

But people like Kent Bosch, a farmer and drainage contractor near Montevideo, believe a new and larger group with taxing authority is unnecessary.

"I don't believe we need an umbrella organization looking over it all and taxing us," Bosch said.

The board was created by the Legislature and originally included 37 counties along the Minnesota River. Today just 22 remain as dues-paying members. The group, made up of county commissioners, saw dwindling funding from the state, and lawmakers last year cut funding completely.

Campbell said the group never grew into what many had hoped it would be — a group with a larger number of stakeholders, including paddlers, anglers and farmers and had a steady source of money to fund groups that are doing environmental work in the basin.

"It wasn't supposed to be a bunch of commissioners sitting around saying we don't want to do much, which was the flavor of a lot of the commissioners," Campbell said.

What Campbell and the executive board had hoped for was support for a plan that would have each of the 13 major watersheds in the basin involved with one elected official and one appointed member from each watershed on the board.

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