Minnesota is the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" and Crow Wing County has more than 100,000 acres of them.
To protect and enhance the water, lakes, streams, rivers and wetlands the county has a water plan in place. The Crow Wing County Board recently approved the 2002 draft plan that is updated every five years.
County Water Planner Bonnie Finnerty said the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources will review the water plan for 90 days and then the plan will come back to the county board this fall for final approval.
Finnerty said she hopes having a plan in place will increase people's awareness and educate them on water resources. For instance, she said if a land owner knows his septic system is polluting the drinking water he'll be more inclined to check it.
"We try to be more proactive than rely on enforcement (when needed)," she said about water issues.
The water plan's main goals are: to promote a better understanding of the value of water resources; protect surface and ground water quality and quantity; address wastewater needs throughout the county and region; and minimize the adverse effects of development county-wide.
To accomplish these goals the county is working on various projects in the next five years. To help address wastewater runoff the county plans to install 10 water gardens. The water gardens are more attractive and absorb runoff, said Finnerty. An example of a water garden will be installed at Northland Arboretum, located north of the Westgate Mall off Excelsior Road in Baxter.
The county also will look at protecting lots that contain a lot of wetlands by putting the land into conservation easements.
"If there are wetlands on a lot and it is developed it would need lots of fill," said Finnerty. "... It'd (the lot) be better left alone instead of being developed."
Wetlands have been disappearing in the county at a steady rate, said Finnerty. However, it is estimated that the county still has more than 80 percent of its original wetlands intact.
Wetlands were one of the main concerns residents had regarding the water plan, said Finnerty. Residents expressed input at an open house and the county conducted a survey and held workshops.
Finnerty said wetlands are the key to healthier water in the county. If there were no wetlands, the water resources would be reduced in quantity and quality. Wetlands benefit flood and stormwater storage, nutrient entrapment, groundwater recharge, wildlife habitat, recreational and commercial uses.
Another project the county is working on is creating a demonstration site on Rush Lake that will show lakeshore owners how to use natural vegetation in landscaping to protect the water from runoff. Using natural vegetation also provides additional habitat for wildlife, said Finnerty.
Lakeshore owners will be asked to use a phosphorus-free fertilizer to help reduce the amount of nutrients and chemicals in the lake. Finnerty said one pound of phosphorous can stimulate the growth of 500 pounds of aquatic plants.
The 2002 water plan was the first water plan Finnerty has put together. She has been the water planner for the county for two years.
"Crow Wing County has so many jurisdictions," she said. "To do something county-wide is hard because you have to follow all the rules.
"It makes it hard for landowners and the local government to communicate (the regulations)."
If anyone would like to comment on the water plan or participate in the county's Water Plan Advisory Board they can reach Finnerty at email@example.com or at 824-1106.
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