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Rice Creek Watershed District Plan Update

Rice Creek Watershed District Plan Update
Rice Creek Watershed District Plan Update

Location:  Blain, MN
Client:  Rice Creek Watershed District


The Rice Creek Watershed District (RCWD) encompasses approximately 186 square miles, including portions of 28 cities, and four counties, north of St. Paul. The RCWD is a local unit of government with ad valorem tax authority, responsible for addressing regional water management issues in accordance with Minnesota Statutes 103B and 103D. The Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area is expanding rapidly, and portions of the RCWD are experiencing high development pressures.

The RCWD faces several unique and substantive water management issues. The RCWD is the authority for all public drainage systems within their boundary and must conduct its public drainage system maintenance obligation while complying with current environmental regulations. The RCWD must also manage the transition of the drainage systems from their original agricultural purpose to an integral part of the urban stormwater system as development occurs. The RCWD also serves as the local government unit for a wetland regulatory permit review program and administers the Wetland Conservation Act as well as adhering to the requirements as a regulated Municipal Separate Sewer System (MS4).  

Under Minnesota Rule Chapter 103D, the RCWD is required to update their Watershed Management Plan (WMP) at least once in every 10-year period. The WMP must address not only surface and groundwater issues, but can include natural resource, wetland, or other important concerns of the District. HEI drafted the previous plan for the RCWD, and is currently working with their Board on a strategic planning process that will inform the upcoming plan update.

The Project

The WMP provides guidance and implementation for the RCWD to manage the water and natural resources of the District though 2020. The RCWD and HEI approached the plan update by creating eight management categories which were used to describe and address the diversity of resources and issues across the District. Management categories were quantified then program goals and policies established. Finally, an operation and management plan was developed to support these goals and policies.

The operation and management plan was established by developing a 10-year Long-Range Plan, which included the schedule for completing action items and capital improvement projects as well as the fiscal requirements. The Long-Range Work Plan serves as the overall management tool for the duration of the WMP, while the Annual and Short-Range Plans provide fluidity to allow for new opportunities and respond to new issues.

Client Benefits

  • Plan’s implementation focus greatly improved ease of use and made the plan a living, vital part of District operation.
  • Plan’s conceptualization of Water Management Districts created a mechanism of project funding that apportions project capital cost in accordance with project benefits. 
  • Long-Range Work Plan provides a valuable and useful tool for identifying short- and long-term activities needing completion and future fiscal needs.