6.9 District Cost Share Programs

Program Need, Timing and Cost

As a result of developing and implementing its watershed management plan, working with local government units, private property owners, non-profits, academia and other interested parties within the watershed on local water plans and capital projects, and carrying out its permitting program, the District is aware of the challenges posed to sound, comprehensive surface water management by existing land uses.  With some frequency, parties appear before the District to express concerns about proposed development that has come before the District for permits, when the issue really is a historic and existing poor state of stormwater management in the area of the proposed development.  Much of the existing development and hard surface within the watershed was constructed at an earlier time without due attention to minimizing and properly managing stormwater impacts.  This existing development is not subject to District permitting requirements.  Further, while stormwater management in these areas may be improved through retrofitting and during redevelopment, roadway and sewer projects, space and options often are constrained and measures may be expensive.

To facilitate actions to improve stormwater management, enhance natural resources and green infrastructure, expand the knowledge base of water resources management, and provide educational opportunities through demonstrative capital projects within the watershed, the District administers a number of cost-share programs to provide financial assistance to government units, private property owners, non-profits, academic institutions and other interested parties for projects contributing to water quality improvements.  District programs include the following:

  • MCWD Low Impact Re/Development Program:  Collaboratively partnering with local communities and private developers to offset the increased costs of exceeding regulatory requirements.
  • MCWD Shoreline/Streambank Stabilization Program: Cost-share program that partners with public entities and private property owners to promote green infrastructure, stabilize problem areas on shorelines and in open channel/stream conveyance systems and create incentives for and support replacement of existing shoreline/streambank riprap with biological or bioengineered stabilization practices, with an emphasis on residential property.
  • Cynthia Krieg Grant Program: Cost-share funding and technical assistance to eligible non-profits, schools, businesses and local government units to develop plans, projects and programs that educate the public about water resource issues or concerns, implement innovative solutions to resource problems and/or demonstrate sound resource management to the public.
  • MCWD/MWMO Research Grant Program: Provides grant funds to academic institutions and other qualified organizations to conduct peer-reviewed research that advances the science of watershed and water resource management with emphasis on local conditions.
  • MCWD Agricultural BMP Cost-Share Program: In conjunction with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), this program collaborates with eligible agricultural producers within the watershed to develop conservation plans and implement best management practices (BMP's) on private property that reduce the impact of agriculture on area natural resources.
  • MCWD Watershed Association Initiative: Partners with local lake- and stream-based citizen groups (registered non-profits) to assist in funding start-up costs and develop and implement lake management plans in and around their resource of concern.
  • Subsurface Sewage Treatment Systems (SSTS) Cost-Share Program: Conducts outreach through partnerships with cities and counties and supports replacement of failing SSTS throughout the watershed.
  • Stormwater BMP Cost-Share Program: Provides grants to private property owners to design and install or construct retrofit BMPs that will reduce the volume and increase the quality of stormwater flowing offsite.
  • Street Sweeping/Sump Analysis Program: Supports sampling and analysis of material collected by municipal street sweeping and sump cleanout in the watershed to determine the pollutant-reduction effectiveness relative to other BMPs and cost-effectiveness of these practices.

Program Administration

Annual funding for District cost-share programs will be set through the budget process.  Specific awards will be made by the Board of Managers in accordance with criteria, and through procedures, established for each program.  In some cases, awarded funds may be authorized and used by recipients for construction of physical structures or installations.

While generally expenditures for capital construction require more detailed capital project documentation through amendments of the watershed management plan, the District does not intend to treat cost-share awards as capital projects subject to these additional procedures, for two reasons.

First, for awards under these programs, the element of capital construction is incidental to other purposes including support of research to advance water resource protection knowledge, demonstration of innovative stormwater management, developing local capacity for water resource protection, fostering community service and public education.  Where an award is made for an infrastructure project required to meet stormwater regulations (District or other regulatory body), District funding is limited to the incremental difference between the cost of District-supported innovative stormwater management methods and the baseline compliance cost of the standard approach.  Demonstration and education benefits are protected through program requirements for educational signage and reasonable access for public viewing. 

Second, in some cases (such as for the low-impact re/development program) the purpose of the program is to provide incentives to property owners and public works departments of local units of government to perform planned work in a more innovative and protective manner or to leverage that work for demonstration and education purposes.  In other cases (such as for the shoreline/streambank stabilization program) action is required to address public infrastructure, land or ecological values at risk due to an unstable bank or channel.  The timing of these programs thus typically is externally driven, in the one case by opportunity and in the other by need.  Accordingly these programs must be administered so that they can meet these externally driven timelines as the need or opportunity arises.        

In implementing its cost-share programs, the District will follow a set of steps to ensure thorough review and a full opportunity for input from public agencies, watershed residents and other interested parties.

First, the overall program funding level will be set annually through the District's budgeting process.  This is an open process that occurs in August and early September each year, and includes a public hearing required by statute at which all parties can review and address the Board of Managers on the District's proposed program budget. 

Second, the District will follow the procedures identified in its watershed management plan for biennial review of its implementation priorities.  Every other year, as a part of this review, the District will conduct public hearings with prior published notice and written notice to all counties and cities within the watershed.  The Board will hear and consider all public comments and make plan implementation and funding decisions in open public meeting.

Third, cost-share funding proposals will be processed and evaluated according to a written set of criteria for each program, adopted by the Board of Managers.  The primary purposes of these criteria are to: (a) provide for consistency in District review and selection of proposals for funding; and (b) direct District funds to projects and locations that will further the goals and priorities of the watershed management plan in an effective manner.  In addition, the District will enter into formalgrant agreements with awardees to guarantee project completion and maintenance.  The Board may revise these terms from time to time, but any revisions will not deviate from the three purposes cited. 

Fourth, the citizens? advisory committee will have a formalized role in reviewing submitted proposals, as well as program criteria, and the Board carefully will consider the committee's recommendations.        

Finally, in conjunction with its annual budget process, the District will follow the procedures under Minnesota Statutes §103B.251 for a public hearing and Board of Managers review before authorization of an annual budget amount for each program. 

Program Funding Source and Financial Impact

The District expects to fund its cost-share programs from the ad valorem property tax levied annually on property within the watershed.  However, other funding sources such as regional, state or federal grants; subwatershed levies; or stormwater utility fees could be explored in the future.  The financial impact of the program on property taxpayers within the watershed will not be substantial.  The average annual levy for the programs listed above is anticipated at an $842,500 funding level.

Further, programs are developed specifically to complement the District's capital project and permitting programs with a tool to identify and achieve water quality gains that those other projects cannot cost-effectively address.  The financial impact of each program on local units of government will be beneficial, as it will reduce stormwater infrastructure and management costs into the future, as well as municipal compliance costs.  Awardees, including local units of government, will assume maintenance and other obligations that will involve cost, but this assumption of costs is the result of a voluntary choice to seek District cost-share funding.