CLARA CITY – Cory Netland will be marking his third year as director of the Hawk Creek Watershed Project in January.
By the end of February, he will be gone.
He has accepted a position with the Department of Natural Resources fisheries office in New Ulm, Netland told attendees at the watershed project’s meeting on Friday in Clara City. He will be working on natural shoreline restorations in the region.
Netland’s departure raises again a difficult decision for the three counties which oversee the watershed project.
Created just over 10 years ago, the watershed project relies almost exclusively on grant funding. The three counties – Chippewa, Renville and Kandiyohi- do not provide a set amount of financial support to fund a coordinator or other staff positions.
Consequently, the impending departure of Netland. A husband and parent to young children, Netland acknowledged that he was leaving for the sake of job security. There’s never a guarantee that the next round of grant funding can be obtained.
Netland will be urging the executive board for the watershed project to consider looking at options for assuring that the watershed project’s work can continue in the future. There are a variety of different options to consider, from establishing a watershed district with taxing authority to a joint powers agreement with a specific dollar contribution from the counties.
He and others argue that there should be a baseline of financial support to assure that staff can remain in place in those years when adequate grant funds cannot be obtained.
The executive board is comprised of representatives from the three county boards of commissioners. They have been reluctant to commit county funds due to tight budgets and other concerns.
To date, the Hawk Creek Watershed Project has been very successful in obtaining grants. They have made possible hundreds of thousands of dollars of improvements to the landscape, to the benefit of many property owners and taxpayers in all three counties. The watershed project makes possible a low interest septic loan program, and provides cost-share funding to implement best management practices on farms. It has also been able to invest heavily in repairs to ditch banks and other waterways.
All the while, it has made strides in improving water quality in the watershed and educating the public about the issues.
Netland made a point of stating that he knows he is not irreplaceable. His co-workers, Stephanie Klamm and Dean Dambroten are sure to carry on the work without missing a beat. And, a newly-approved contract with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will provide funding to keep operations on an even keel for the immediate future.
There is breathing room if the board wants to work out a plan for the long-term that is not dependent almost entirely on outside grant funding.
– Tom Cherveny