By Sarah Boser, Sauk River Watershed District Water Resource Manager

The Sauk River Watershed District (SRWD) was established on July 22, 1986 by the Minnesota Water Resource Board (WRB) through a petition signed by landowners. The petition to establish the SRWD developed from the Sauk River Chain of Lakes Association, Inc. as they were interested in water quality studies and projects that would require a larger financial backing than the lake association would be able to provide on their own. The SRWD boundary encompasses parts of five counties (Stearns, Todd, Douglas, Pope and Meeker) and covers approximately 1,041 square miles (over 667,000 acres).

Today, the SRWD has a nine-member board, referred to as the Board of Managers, comprised of four managers from Stearns County, two from Todd County, one from Pope County, one from Douglas County, and one from Meeker County. Each board manager is appointed to the Board of Managers by county commissioners for the corresponding county. Board managers meet once per month (meetings for the SRWD are held the third Tuesday of the month). Per the Watershed District Handbook, prepared by the Minnesota Association of Watershed Districts, the role of a board manager is someone who “helps direct the activities of the district, sets policy, guides staff, and makes key decisions on district priorities.” Board managers also “hire staff and delegate the authority to carry out district policies.” When appointed to the board, each manager takes an oath to uphold these priorities.

Six full time staff members work for the SRWD. An administrator (Scott), office and finance manager (Melissa), ditch and permit manager (Jon), public outreach coordinator (Adam), environmental technician (Kady) and water resource manager (Sarah). The SRWD also hires between one and three interns during the summer months to assist with field work such as water quality data collection, permit inspections, education events and project inspections. Each of the staff listed above maintain their own department with the exception of the environmental technician, whose role is to provide assistance to each of the other departments as needed, with the primary duties of the position being water quality monitoring, education events, and project and permit inspections.

The administrator, according to the Watershed District Handbook referenced above, “is responsible for managing the daily operations of the district including but not limited to: [managing] staff and providing leadership and guidance, overseeing operations and maintenance of building, capital equipment and administrative needs; keeping official records…budgeting operations and capital improvement projects, project review and oversight, communicating with the public,” etc. The office and finance manager is responsible for accounts payable and receivable, processing checks, and managing the SRWD’s accounting system. The ditch and permit manager processes permit applications, and manages the public drainage systems under the Sauk River Watershed Drainage Authority via Minnesota Statute 103E. The public outreach coordinator conducts a variety of education events for people of all ages, educating them on the importance of natural resources. He also takes care of public relations efforts for the SRWD. The Water Resource Manager coordinates and assists with water quality monitoring, completes data analysis and reporting, writes and manages grants and coordinates water resource projects.

Questions regarding this article may be directed to Sarah Boser, water resource manager for the Sauk River Watershed District, at 320-352-2231 or sarah@srwdmn.org.Osakis Voices is rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.