DNR moves forward with plan for Little Rock Creek

Staff Writer

The DNR presented the draft plan for the Little Rock Creek, east of Royalton, it intends to release for public review in August to members of the Public Advisory Team (PAT). Some members of the PAT saw the plan as not being ready.

July 26 was the final meeting of the Little Rock Creek PAT meetings that had been ongoing since March, 2016.

The meetings were held to provide the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with information and feedback on plans for water projects in the area.

Among the issues people had were that it didn’t discuss everything discussed at the PAT meetings, it seemed to focus on irrigation and members had difficulty even determining what the goal is.

Hydrologist Dan Whitney said the DNR did not reference topics like the median groundwater base flow in August, the time when the DNR said the creek is at its lowest point.

“How can you say this is complete when we discussed it (median August base flow), you guys (DNR) gave a presentation on it. You presented average flows, median flows,” Whitney said. “How can you say this is complete?”

DNR Project Manager Mark Hauck said the plan is meant to give a general idea of what the DNR is looking to do.

“The document was written with the intent that somebody can get the gist of what the DNR is planning to do for that spot,” Hauck said.

DNR Deputy Director for Ecological and Water Resources Steve Colvin said  the point of the meeting was to get input from everyone rather than have people begin debates in response to the comments that were raised.

Benton County Commissioner Jack Bauerly said he had an issue with one of the main objectives of the DNR plan, which said high use of groundwater aquifers must not harm surface waters. Bauerly said this is unreasonable and unfair to irrigators when other activities impact surface water.

“It should be  to minimize effects on the ecosystem. We’re holding irrigation to a higher standard,” Bauerly said, adding that DNR activities like putting in boat accesses would not meet the criteria as they can end up introducing aquatic invasive species to an ecosystem.

Kevin Maurer said irrigators should be held to a higher standard as they use more of the resources.

Helen McLennan said she didn’t think the plan was clear in describing what the DNR’s concern is.

“Are we talking that we’re concerned with the water quality as a ground water drinking water source, because it feeds into the Mississippi?  Are we more concerned because of the trout, which we’ve all discussed, it’s an artificial trout stream,” McLennan said. “I’m a little unclear as to what we’re actually trying to arrive at.”

Hydrologist Dan Lais, who works for the DNR, said the goal is to allow people to continue using water resources in the Little Rock Creek area, while preserving it for future generations.

The DNR balances its mandates from the Legislature with the input it gets from the public, including irrigators in the Little Rock Creek Watershed.

“We want to allow as much use as we reasonably can,” Lais said.

Once the DNR has included input from the PAT into the plan, it will be open for 45 days of review from the public, beginning sometime later this month.

The plan will be posted on the DNR’s website: www.dnr.state.mn.us. A link to a survey about the plan will be posted with it.

More information about the project, including a map of the area focused on can be found at the project’s page on the DNR’s website