Many people have heard of the Red River Watershed Management Board (RRWMB) but may not know who they are or what they do. The RRWMB is one of many organizations working on water management in the Red River Basin (RRB), and this may add to some of the confusion about water management entities in the RRB. The RRWMB has taxing authority similar to a county, township, or school district, but most people do not know what the taxes are used for. This article is intended to help provide some answers about the who, what, where, when, and why of the RRWMB.

    The RRWMB is comprised of 7 watershed districts on the Minnesota side of the Red River. These include the Bois de Sioux, Joe River, Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers, Red Lake River, Roseau River, Two Rivers, and Wild Rice Watershed Districts. Each watershed district has one representative on the Board, which meets monthly. The RRWMB was formed by the MN Legislature in 1976 with the main purpose of reducing flooding on the Red River and its tributaries.

    The mission of the RRWMB is to institute, coordinate, and finance projects and programs to alleviate flooding and assure the beneficial use of water in the watershed of the Red River of the North and its tributaries. The principal objective of the RRWMB is to assist member watershed districts with the implementation of water related projects and programs. The purpose of these is the reduction of local and mainstem flood damages and to enhance environmental and water resource management. To qualify for funding, projects and programs must be of benefit to the whole Red River Basin. The RRWMB has 11 supporting objectives that help guide its efforts and includes the following:

    • Coordination – Provide leadership for water management.
    • Financial Support – Fund initiatives that encourage consideration of mainstem Red River benefits and enhance environmental and water resources.
    • Basin Planning – Assist local, state, regional, national and international efforts through coordination and assistance with implementation.
    • Water Quantity – Alleviate flood damages and maintain low flow conditions for the aquatic environment and water supply.
    • Water Quality – Assistance for studies, programs, initiatives, and projects to improve water quality.
    • Erosion and Sedimentation – Assistance for studies, programs, and initiatives to reduce soil erosion and sedimentation.
    • Education – Development of educational programs related to water and natural resource management concerns.
    • Research – Assistance for basic and applied research related to natural resource management within the RRB.
    • Public Information – Inform the public of water management activities.
    • Conflict Resolution – Work toward resolution of conflicts regarding water management.
    • Policies, Rules, Regulations – Comply with policies and regulations of other governmental entities.

    Flood control is high on the list of projects and the RRWMB has provided funding for over 40 impoundment projects in the RRB since the late 1970s. These projects provide nearly 200,000-acre feet of storage (one-acre foot is the area covered by one acre to a depth of one foot and this equals 325,851 gallons of water). These projects provide significant flood control, and at the same time provide environmental benefits by restoring wetlands, providing water quality benefits, and providing wildlife habitat. Funding for projects is from a tax levy collected through member watershed districts. One half of this levy is utilized locally for local projects, and one-half is sent to the RRWMB for regional projects.

    The RRWMB not only is a funding source, but it is a resource for research and information. It has sponsored and provided information for many studies that are of value to local water resource managers. These include surface water drainage and ditching, tile drainage and ditching, lidar data collection and dissemination, permitting issues, hydrologic and hydraulic studies, and water quality data collection.

    Many partnerships have been developed since 1976, and the RRRMB works closely with the Red River Basin Commission, the Red River Retention Authority, the North Dakota Joint Water Resources Board, and others. These entities work toward the common goals of flooding, drainage, and water management. An annual conference is sponsored by the RRWMB each spring to coordinate and share information.

    In short, the RRWMB is dedicated to providing leadership, guidance, and solutions for managing water in the RRB. For more information about the RRWMB or the tax levy, please stop by your local watershed district office, or contact Robert Sip, the RRWMB Executive Director at 218-474-1084 or rob.sip@rrwmb.org. You can also go to the RRWMB website at: www.rrwmb.org