State board approves watershed-based plan; new funding available
ROCHESTER, Minn. – Nov. 23, 2021 – Increased stormwater storage, improved groundwater and more
sustainable agriculture are top priorities for a newly approved plan for the Zumbro River and its
New state funding totaling more than $1.2 million over two years now will go toward projects in
2022 and 2023 within the Greater Zumbro River Watershed after the Minnesota Board of Water & Soil
Resources (BWSR) state board approved in October a final comprehensive water-management plan.
Part of the state’s One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P) process, the Greater Zumbro River Watershed
planning area will involve local entities collaborating on projects and practices. A public kickoff
for the planning – funded by BWSR – was in 2019 in Rochester.
“All the Zumbro partners are excited to keep working together on this next phase with new funding
and opportunities,” said Caitlin Brady, water resources coordinator for Olmsted Soil & Water
Conservation District, a lead staffer for the Zumbro plan. “We now are better equipped to more
effectively and efficiently work to improve local waters, especially in partnership with farmers.”
In total, 13 local-government units are in the partnership for the planning area covering just
under 1.1 million acres, or 1,654 square miles, in parts of six counties: Goodhue (27 percent);
Wabasha (24 percent); Dodge (22 percent); Olmsted (22 percent); Rice (3 percent); and Steele (2
About 86 percent of the planning area is in the Zumbro River watershed, with the rest in the
Mississippi River-Lake Pepin watershed that includes the cities of Red Wing and Lake City. The
Zumbro River – a state water trail that collects water from four major forks and numerous tributary
streams – flows west to east, emptying into the Mississippi downstream from Lake Pepin.
Under its statewide 1W1P initiative, BWSR aims to create water plans based on watershed boundaries
rather than smaller, political boundaries. This is to ensure the most-significant threats to a
watershed’s resources, including surface and groundwater, are addressed with practices providing
the greatest environmental benefits.
With the Zumbro plan, local partners set priorities, goals and strategies for the next 10 years of
managing water in the area.
Members of the Zumbro plan now are developing a work plan and budget to implement the
Implementing the plan initially will focus on addressing concerns with groundwater quality by
getting best-management conservation practices in place in key areas of the watershed and giving
water-testing opportunities to private well users, she said. Some of those practices include
vegetated buffers and water-and-sediment control basins.
Zumbro partners also will look to build projects that increase stormwater storage to reduce
flooding. They will promote sustainable agricultural activities, including cover crops and other
practices that reduce erosion and excessive nutrients – such as phosphorus and nitrogen – in
Better fish and wildlife habitat also will be a goal under the plan through restoration and
enhancement projects, she said, along with improved recreation and livability by reducing
“Many of these actions are interrelated,” Brady said. “Hopefully what we can get done on the
landscape will lead to measurable improvements in fish and wildlife habitat along with better
recreation in the Zumbro.”
In 2018, BWSR awarded a planning grant to the Watershed Alliance for the Greater Zumbro (WAGZ)
Partnership that has led the planning process. It consists of counties and soil and water
conservation districts in the planning area as well as the City of Rochester and Bear Valley
With the state approval, the Zumbro partnership now will implement the plan through a joint powers
agreement among the local government entities. A policy committee of elected officials representing
the government units will oversee the work.
Zumbro 1W1P’s approved plan can be viewed online at: www.olmstedcounty.gov/residents/soil-water-resources/water-resources