Plan for Vermillion River corridor moves ahead
The future of the Vermillion River corridor is starting to take shape. The Dakota County Board of Commissioners approved a plan Nov. 2 that sets some goals for improving water quality, restoring natural habitat and increasing access to the river for recreation. Now, the county is looking for residents and cities who are interested in helping make things happen.
The corridor plan has been in the works for year, and land conservation manager Al Singer is happy to have an opportunity to move forward."It does feel good, although plans are just one step in the phase," Singer said. "Now we're on to implementing."
The county's plan calls for a number of small projects done with the cooperation of willing landowners. Projects could include planting vegetation to stabilize streambanks and reduce erosion, creating new buffer zones along the river and redirecting the river's flow to add back natural curves that were eliminated to create more room for farming.
With the help of grant money the county has put out a call to residents interested in selling easements on their property. Applications for the first round of purchases are due by Dec. 1.
The county will use a set of criteria established as part of the plan to evaluate the properties and determine what is worth working with and how much they should pay. Information sent to residents earlier this month offers as much as $4,725 per acre.
Like the rest of the plan, those criteria focus on what properties can do the most for protecting the quality of the river and for giving more residents access to a natural resource that currently runs mostly through private property.
"We want to find a way to allow the public to use this and enjoy the entire river, as long as private property rights are respected," Singer said.
The projects will also look very different from one end of the river to another. In Lakeville and Farmington and Empire Township, where the Vermillion begins, there has been very little development and the river has a reputation as a high-quality trout stream. The county's plan looks for ways to preserve that cold, clean water even as development continues.
Farther to the east, in Hastings, the land around the river has already been largely developed. The focus there will be on making the best use of what's available. Singer said he's already had conversations with representatives from the city of Hastings who have made informal proposals for projects. Singer said he'd gotten inquiries from 15 people interested in submitting applications.
For more information about the plan or about submitting an application visit www.vermillionriverwatershed.org.