$1.7M of state funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was awarded for habitat enhancement in the Rum River Corridor. A broad-based partnership will bring an additional $215,000 in local matching funds. We will use these funds to enhance wildlife habitat from the headwaters in Lake Mille Lacs to where the Rum River joins the Mississippi River in Anoka. The Rum River Corridor is critical habitat for many rare species, including Blanding's Turtle and two types of mussels, to name a few. We will be doing habitat improvement projects from in the river to beyond the banks.
This legislative session, the Minnesota Legislature passed Minnesota Statute 477A.23, subd. 4(b), providing funding to soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) throughout the state. While this isn't new money, the funding comes from a different source that will make it more reliable and provide local flexibility.
For the last eight years, SWCDs have received funding through the Clean Water Fund of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment which required legislative action every two years. On average, Anoka Conservation District (ACD) received $125K/year with 2023 being $137K. Unlike most grants, this funding could be used for any project or program aimed at improving water quality. ACD could quickly tap into these funds to complete many small but critical efforts such as:
photo inventories of lakeshore and riverbank erosion,
development of public outreach materials to promote conservation programs,
website enhancements like project mapping, and dashboards,
equipment and technology purchases, and
small project cost share.
Where the previous funding fell short was that it couldn't be used for projects outside the scope of water quality, making projects such as habitat improvement, water conservation, and general public outreach and engagement ineligible. The new funds will replace Clean Water Funds and are distributed directly from the state through the Department of Revenue to SWCDs, cutting out mid-level agency involvement and reducing red tape. Now that these funds aren't restricted solely to water quality, SWCD's can use the funds where they are needed to properly address local priorities.
We are excited that for two years ACD will receive a bit more than past years at $179K. This will go down to normal thereafter.
The Anoka Conservation District is offering incentive grants to agricultural producers who use land management practices that benefit water quality and soil health. Eligible agricultural practices include cover crops, no-till, strip-till, conservation-tillage, prescribed grazing, nutrient management, and others. Available funding varies by the type of practice. A three-year commitment is required by the landowner to qualify for the program.
Online dashboards are an increasingly popular way to display summary information about otherwise complex data sets. Beginning in 2022, ACD started using dashboards to highlight annual and cumulative progress on ecological and water quality oriented projects. The most recent addition to ACD dashboards is one that shows ACD financials going back to 2010. "While it took a bit of time to format financial data to work with the dashboard interface, I think it was well worth it" Anoka Conservation District Manager Chris Lord said. "We beta tested it with several of our state legislators during virtual meetings and they responded very positively." The data extend back to 2010 specifically to capture all of the funds ACD has received from the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Constitutional Amendment.