Farm Horizons, February 2009

Soil and Water Convservation District supervisors on the job

Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

“Wise land use” is the goal of the Wright Soil and Water Conservation District, and to help achieve that goal are county staff and citizen-elected supervisors. Three of five Wright SWCD supervisors’ seats were up for re-election in 2008, and all three positions will retain incumbent supervisors.

Incumbents Mark McNamara, Duane Dahlman, and Christopher Uecker all retained their seats, and now begin a new 4-year-term. The positions held by Mike Zieska, and Mary Wetter were not up for re-election last fall.

The Wright SWCD was founded in 1943, and included the designation “county” (Wright County SWCD) until 1966 when the “county” was taken out of the official name.

Its mission statement is to “provide local leadership in the conservation and wise use of soil, water and related resources through a balanced program that protects, restores and improves those resources.”

SWCDs are political subdivisions of the state, and supervisor positions have been locally elected officials since the inception of SWCDs in 1937. Beginning in 1971, the offices have appeared on the November ballot as a nonpartisan office, and in 1974 “supervisor nomination districts” were mandated for the purpose of ensuring that supervisors were spread out geographically within each SWCD, according to the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

There are five districts in Wright county that are served by elected supervisors.

District I, served by Mike Zieska, includes the cities of Annandale, Clearwater, Corinna, and Maple Lake, and the following townships Clearwater, Corinna, Maple Lake, and Silver Creek.

District II, served by Mark McNamara, includes the cities of Albertville, Hanover, Monticello, Otsego, and St. Michael, as well as Monticello township.

McNamara is originally from Hastings, but now is a resident of Monticello. He enjoys the planning part of his position, as well as providing direction and setting goals for the district in regards to natural resources.

“Day-to-day challenges,” McNamara explained, “includes balancing land use with agriculture versus urban use versus protection of natural resources.”

He also said that development pressure has slowed with the downturn in the economy in regards to balancing development with resource protection. Incentive programs for resource protection by providing conservation dollars for conservation practices, especially in shoreland areas, are continually in the works, but finding those limited dollars is difficult, McNamara explained.

Another big issue and challenge for the SWCD is cleaning up polluted area lakes and waterways, according to McNamara. Data is being collected and studies are in the works for area lakes as to each lake’s total maximum daily load, or TMDL studies.

The EPA is mandating, through the Clean Water Act, that lakes with TMDL levels below minimum standards be brought up to the federal standard. Local government units, such as SWCDs will be very involved in the cleanup efforts.

District III, served by Mary Wetter, includes the cities of Buffalo, Delano, Hanover, Montrose, Rockford, and Waverly, along with the following townships: Buffalo, Chatham, Franklin, Rockford, and Woodland.

Wetter grew up in north Minneapolis, and now resides in Rockford Township. She and her husband, Leander, have three grown children.

She enjoys foreseeing future land use and doing what’s best for the surrounding area and environment.

“Environmental issues come up all the time,” Wetter said, “and many times they’re not handled properly. I like overseeing what gets done, and saving it for the future.”

Another challenge is trying to do what’s best for the county while taking into consideration that Wright County has a lot of development on one end of it, while the other end is mostly agriculture.

“With all the rules and regulations, it’s harder for farmers to operate because of the setbacks. Because of those setbacks, and development around farms, a lot of agriculture can’t be done anymore,” Wetter explained.

Wetter also doesn’t agree with the idea of green space corridors.

“You’re not supposed to farm it, you’re just supposed to look at it. It seems kind of like a waste. For food production, there’s going to come a time when we need to farm it,” Wetter said.

She enjoys the legislative lobbying she gets to partake in a couple of days out of the year, and she likes to make it known that the SWCD needs its piece of the pie in order to preserve the land for future generations.

District IV, served by Christopher Uecker, includes the cities of Howard Lake, Maple Lake, Montrose, and Waverly, as well as Albion, Marysville, and Middleville townships.

Uecker is originally from Albion township and today farms that same ground he grew up on. He and his wife, Clare, have twin girls who are three-years-old.

He enjoys promoting conservation practices, completion of successful projects, and helping to preserve the quality of natural resources for future generations.

“Development pressure isn’t as bad currently, but impaired waters and the TMDL studies are of concern right now,” Uecker explained. “There’s a lot of water monitoring of lakes right now, and getting that data, along with realizing some theories that will be backed by facts, will be interesting,” he added.

District V, served by Duane Dahlman, includes the cities of Annandale, Cokato, Howard Lake, and South Haven, along with the following townships: Cokato, French Lake, Southside, Stockholm, and Victor.

Dahlman resides in Cokato, and has been with the Wright SWCD for 20 years.

“As a member of the board of supervisors,” Dahlman said, “I feel it is not only my responsibility to carry out the policies and procedures of the programs of the Wright SWCD, but to implement what can be done on our own property.”

“As we move forward with projects, the best interest of both the SWCD and the property owner is always first. There are many issues that need to be addressed, so a slow and methodical type of approach is always used. I have to say that it is so important that all parties need to understand the rules and regulations of the different programs,” he added.

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