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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Water Project District: The Pitch

[Part 2 in a series!]

Robert Todd opened yesterday's informational meeting in Chester on the proposed Interlakes Water Project District with his explanation of what the district would do and why that would be good. Here's a summary of his pitch:
  • A formal water project district (WPD) would be able to carry out long-term projects (Todd mentioned a ten-year plan) that ad hoc volunteer groups cannot sustain.
  • While there are entities like the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and East Dakota Water Development District that work on water quality, those entitites limited funds spread over broad areas. The DENR has already funded the Wolff Dam project near Lake Madison and probably doesn't have much more to spend here. EDWDD directs its funding priorities to the Big Sioux River. Forming a WPD here would allow greater local control and focused attention on the local watershed.
  • A WPD can levy taxes to support water quality projects that benefit everyone in the watershed. While the district could levy a maximum of $1 per $1000 in property value, a 50¢/K levy would be adequate for the district's first couple years of operation. That's $100 a year for a $200K property. A 50¢/K levy would bring in $80K for the district's annual budget. [Note: that means there is about $160 million in taxable property value around Lakes Madison and Brant.]
  • A WPD can also seek special assessments for additional revenue. Obtaining a special assessment requires an affirmative vote by 60% of landowners in the district.
  • A WPD can qualify for federal stimulus dollars that volunteer groups can't get. However, the deadline for applying for the remaining stimulus money is October 1. Thus, to have a shot at the money, this district needs to start now.
  • The WPD would have five major action areas:
    1. controlling nutrient and silt loads (primary area of concern: immediately west of Lake Madison), getting cattle out of the streams by helping develop alternative water supplies
    2. re√ęstablishing grassy waterways
    3. building and maintaining retention dams
    4. controlling carp (they cause bank erosion, release phosphorus and other nutrients that aggravate algae growth)
    5. educate residents on water quality issues and actions
A dozen interested residents gave patient and polite attention to this pitch. How did they respond? Stay tuned... more to come!

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