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About Watershed Districts

In 1953, Congress approved the federal Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act. The act provided financial assistance to local agencies responsible for the management of secondary watersheds. These agencies have the power of eminent domain and the ability to levy for support of their activities. The Minnesota Legislature approved the Watershed Act, Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103D, in 1955. This act allows the establishment of Watershed Districts upon a petition to the Minnesota Water Resources Board (now the Board of Water and Soil Resources) by either citizens or local governmental units.

As the Watershed Act was being developed, it was decided that Watershed Districts should be run by appointed managers so that they would be able to make tough decisions without worrying about political consequences. However, land use zoning powers would still remain with elected city and county officials. The first watershed district to be established was in 1957. The High Island Watershed District, encompassed parts of Sibley, Renville, and McLeod counties. Other Districts followed, with the 4th and most recent one, the Cedar River Watershed District, established in 2007.

Note: This is an excerpt from the 2011 Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts Handbook which is available on-line. This is a large file (10 MB).

Middle Fork Location MapMiddle Fork Crow River Watershed Map