The Heron Lake Watershed District (HLWD) general operating funds are limited and minimal in comparison to what is needed. In order to make the best use of general operating funds, the HLWD has put forth extensive efforts to obtain outside funding.
The HLWD first began applying for additional outside funding in 1996. Since then, 72 grants have successfully been secured. These grants were awarded by local, state, and national organizations such as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), AgStar, Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Heron Lake-Okabena Community Foundation, and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The HLWD has received $3.2 million in cash through grants from these organizations. These funds were used to pay for cost-share and incentive programs, water quality monitoring, staff, and education efforts. The HLWD has been very fortunate that outside funders have deemed our projects to be good investments in accordance with their goals and priorities.
Loan funds are separate from grant funds. Loan funds have been awarded to the HLWD for septic system replacement, best management practice installation, and conservation tillage equipment. Since 1996, over $1.6 million has been awarded for loans.
Education and implementation come with a price tag. Education and implementation efforts to produce newsletters, provide knowledgeable speakers, and put conservation practices on the ground all cost money. Implementation with the agricultural and urban community takes time, as balance between conservation and making a living must be maintained. It is only with the help of partnering organizations and willing landowners that we can continue making improvements. One person or one project in itself will not make much difference, but combined efforts will make a difference.