(WATONWAN COUNTY, Minn) - Area conservation agencies are seeking the public's input on a plan managing the Watonwan River Watershed.

The watershed's area stretches across six counties in southern Minnesota.

Officials from Blue Earth, Brown, Cottonwood, Jackson, Martin and Watonwan counties are working as one unit in order to manage the land area which drains water into larger bodies across the region.

In years past, counties and other conservation agencies would develop plans individually, slowing down management efforts.
"It's actually been a pretty intense process so far but it's been interesting to hear the similarities across the county boundaries," said Jill Sackett Eberhart, -Conservationist for the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. "People are having erosion issues everywhere, the last couple years there's been a lot of flooding. So the big issues don't change across the county lines."
To help navigate the planning process, project managers are holding an open house next week to get an idea of how the public will be impacted.
"At this kickoff meeting we just want to hear from as many people in the public," said David Bucklin, Technician for Cottonwood County's Soil and Water District. "There will be state agencies there also from all the water-related state agencies so there will be tables set up where landowners and citizens can go around and talk to them and see some different issues."
Those issues can vary.
"Whether it's lakes, or if they want us to focus on drainage system issues or maybe they're interested in habitat because they have an endangered or special species in their area of the state." said Sackett Eberhart.
Once areas of concern are identified, then they'll look toward solutions.
"We like to see if we can look at some water storage but it has to be in the right place because landowners don't want to be impacted in their cropland and we understand that," said Bucklin. "There's a lot of conflicting interests but generally there are solutions that don't have to be conflicting."

The Watonwan River Watershed Open House is Monday, January 28 from 4-7 p.m. at the Saint James American Legion with a complimentary taco bar.

Should there be a cancellation due to inclement weather, the open house will move to January 29 with the same location and time.

---KEYC News 12