Water resource policies cover a broad spectrum of topics that range from floodplain management, stormwater runoff, erosion and sediment control, wetland management, and shoreland management. In many cases, these policy areas have already been established through past planning efforts and regulations. Examples include:
BMPs are a combination of education, public outreach, maintenance, and engineering controls that are appropriate to comply with the requirements of the NPDES Phase II permit.
In 2014 the State of Minnesota first offered Local AIS Prevention Aid to all counties for the purpose of stopping the spread and/or preventing the introduction of aquatic invasive species, such as Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels. A Stearns County AIS Committee was formed for the purpose of developing a County AIS Plan to best use these funds.
The Stearns County Board of Commissioners adopted the County’s AIS Plan on February 17, 2015. Since the program’s inception, inspectors have logged over 60,000 watercraft inspections. The premise of the Plan is the receipt of County AIS Prevention Aid. If that Aid is discontinued, the AIS Committee and County Officials will need to determine the future of the program.
Stearns County’s Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan (aka “County Water Plan”) serves as a guide for water and land resource restoration, protection and preservation. It is a cooperative plan, relying on partnerships between many different entities in order to accomplish the goals of the plan. Stearns County, with its planning and land-use authorities, is a member of this partnership, positioned to link land use decisions with local goals for water resources.
The history of Minnesota’s Shoreland Management Program dates back to 1969 with the passage of the Shoreland Management Act. Minimum development standards – such as structure setbacks, height limits, impervious surface limits, lot requirements, vegetation removal and land alteration requirements – are established in state rules (Minnesota Rules, part 6120.2500 – 6120.3900) and administered through local ordinances. Stearns adopted it’s first shoreland ordinance in 1973.
Floodplain management incorporates a community’s actions for reducing flood damage. Stearns County’s floodplain management ordinance specifies building standards for new and existing development that provide flood loss reduction as well as make flood insurance available to home and business owners through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
Under the NFIP program, federally insured or regulated institutions (such as banks) must require flood insurance policies on all new loans for structures in mapped floodplain areas recognized by FEMA.
The Goal of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of waters of the state through management and treatment of urban storm water runoff. The program requires that this be accomplished through the management of Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) through the preparation of a Stearns County pollution prevention program.
A watershed district may cover several counties. The boundaries of the districts follow the natural watershed (region or area which drains to a particular watercourse or body of water). A watershed district is usually named after the biggest watershed in the district. There are four watershed districts in Stearns County (see Figure 5.1): Cle arwater River, North Fork Crow River, Sauk River, and Middle Fork Crow River. Each watershed district works to prevent and control water-related problems. Each district monitors the water quality within ditches, rivers, streams, creeks and lakes. Some projects the districts handle include: administration of public drainage systems, water quality improvement systems and regulatory controls to protect water resources.
Stearns County administers the State of Minnesota’s Wetland Conservation Act. This Act prohibits the draining and filling of wetlands without replacement. Excavations may also be regulated in some instances. The Act provides for exemptions which allow certain activities in wetlands without replacement. Activities managed by Stearns County include wetland determinations for certain property, reviewing wetland replacement plans, and providing certificates of exemptions, when applicable.