Watershed rules guide water-friendly development

For each Scrabble game, there must be at least two players and no more than four. Tiles can only be placed from left to right or from top to bottom. Words placed diagonally or backwards are not allowed. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Games are only fun if everyone follows the rules.

To make pickles, stir water, vinegar, sugar, and sea salt together in a saucepan over high heat. Combine cucumber slices, garlic cloves, and fresh dill in a large glass container. Pour cooled vinegar mixture over cucumber slices, seal container, and refrigerate for at least three days.

If you don’t follow the recipe, your pickles might not taste good.

If you are building a home or driveway, hauling-in fill to change your landscape, or sub-dividing your property, contact your city and watershed management organization before you begin to make sure you follow the rules and get any necessary permits. Keep your dirt on-site while you’re building so that you don’t make muddy water; don’t cut down all the trees and plants along the shoreline; and make sure you don’t flood your neighbors downstream.

Watershed rules require landowners and developers to protect wetlands and waterways during construction and install practices to keep runoff from causing flooding or water pollution after construction is done. This is an example of a new home site  that does NOT have required erosion control and wetland protections in place. 

There are rules for just about everything in life, and watershed management is no exception. Across the country, there are sometimes very different rules for how we use and impact water. In the western United States, for example, appropriative water rights can grant people or corporations the right to use water, even if they’re located far away from the source. The eastern states operate under riparian water rights, which grant access to anyone whose land touches the water.

In Washington County, Watershed Districts and Watershed Management Organizations create rules to protect against flooding and water pollution. Though the specific requirements vary depending on location, these rules generally apply to development and re-development projects and address issues such as erosion during construction; stormwater management; buffers around lakes, streams and wetlands; and alterations to floodplains or drainage.

Watershed rules exist to protect the health of our lakes and waterways. For example, watershed rules might require a landowner to maintain the existing trees and native plants along their lake shore, and only build a narrow path to reach the water.

One common watershed rule requirement is that developers incorporate practices to capture runoff from commercial and residential properties so that it doesn’t flow off-site and pollute nearby waterways or flood homes and businesses downstream. Common strategies for reducing runoff include leaving portions of the site undeveloped, creating places to catch runoff and soak it into the ground (ie. raingardens and infiltration basins), or building stormwater ponds.

Washington County built large raingardens in the South Service Center parking lot to prevent runoff from flowing downstream to Cottage Grove Ravine Lake. These raingardens were one strategy the county used to meet South Washington Watershed District’s rules.

In the game of Scrabble, some people rack up points by spelling lots of long words. Others win by spelling a few short words with letters like “Q” and “X.” Likewise, watershed organizations allow flexibility in how people meet their rule requirements. Land owners and developers are free to decide which practices work best for them, as long as they achieve the goals of limiting run-off, soaking water into the ground, and protecting lakes, rivers, and streams.

To find contact information for your local watershed organization, go to www.cleanwatermn.org and scroll down to the “Find your watershed” map.

There are eight watershed management organizations in Washington County. Use the Clean Water MN map to find yours.