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Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator Brad Grant (left) with Ed Musielewicz of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District Administrator Bruce Albright and John Hanson, Becker county representative on the BRRWD Board of Managers. (Vicki Gerdes/DL Newspapers)

Local governenment entities colloborate more

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

These days, with fewer state and federal funding opportunities available, many local agencies have started looking to each other for help.

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But for the Becker County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), cooperation and collaboration have been the name of the game for more than a decade.

"It's been 10 years or longer that we've been partnering with the SWCD in trying to implement best management practices (on lands) within Becker County," said Bruce Albright, BRRWD administrator.

Their biggest collaborative effort to date has been the Hay Creek Watershed Project, which covers 26 square miles north of Stinking Lake.

In 2008, the two agencies applied jointly for a grant from the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR), and received $185,000 for water quality improvements in the Hay Creek watershed.

The money was used to provide incentives for landowners within the watershed to install sediment control basins and buffer strips along the streams, creeks and other waterways that flow into Stinking Lake.

In addition, Albright noted, "We took advantage of any other state and federal programs that were available."

"We used money from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to help leverage the funds," said Ed Musie-lewicz, district conservationist for the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The NRCS also contributed funds and resources toward the Hay Creek project.

So far, Musielewicz said, the program has helped with the planning of 54 erosion control structures and 172 acres of buffer strips within the 26-square-mile area.

"To date, we have installed 27 basins and 99 acres of buffer strips," he added. "We were able to provide additional incentives above and beyond what the federal programs would offer.

By the time the Hay Creek project is finished in 2011, the three agencies will have accessed nearly $500,000 in funding for the project, Albright added.

In recognition of their collaborative efforts, the SWCD awarded its 2009 Conservationist of the Year Award to the Buffalo-Red River Watershed District.

Brad Grant, SWCD administrator, said that in addition to the Hay Creek project, the BRRWD also provides $20,000 in annual funding for other watershed projects in the county.

The agencies are also looking for ways to collaborate on projects that would be eligible for Clean Water Legacy grants from the state. This sales-tax-funded program will hopefully provide a guaranteed source of funding for the next 25 years, Albright noted.

"The more partners you bring in the better the chances (of receiving funding)," Grant added.

"Next year we'll sit down with Brad and Ed and the others and say where do we go next? There's more work to be done out there," Albright said. "I see this partnership continuing a long time into the future."

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