Chamber backs creation of local watershed board

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 28, 2003

The chamber of commerce has thrown its support behind the establishment of a separate watershed board to develop and oversee a plan for the Shell Rock River watershed.

According to a news release, the chamber’s board of directors appreciated the efforts of local governments toward watershed cleanup, but recognized that budget deficits are likely to cut into the necessary funding.

&uot;Lake restoration is a high priority of the people of Albert Lea and Freeborn County and the chamber emphasizes that this is beneficial to all of Freeborn County and will encourage economic development, retail growth and quality of life.&uot;

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The state Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is nearing the end of a three-year process by which it may choose to create a watershed district run by an appointed board that would operate outside of the city and county governments. The board would have the power to levy taxes to fund watershed efforts.

After giving Freeborn County more than two years to develop and begin implementing its own watershed plan, BWSR is poised to make a final decision. A group of Freeborn County residents originally got the agency involved by submitting a petition asking for a watershed district. The county contested the petition and BWSR agreed to delay the establishment of the district, giving the county a chance to handle the improvements on its own.

&uot;It is the chamber’s position that a separate and independent entity with its own funding source is necessary to complete the process,&uot; according to the chamber’s resolution. &uot;In addition, the chamber will work diligently to ensure the funding source is appropriate and fair to all the citizens, businesses and industry in Freeborn County.&uot;

The chamber has been an active participant in the lake debate through its Lakes Restoration Committee in recent years.