New Member Spotlight: Red River Watershed Management Board

May 22, 2023

Organization name: Red River Watershed Management Board (RRWMB)



Twitter:  Red River Watershed Management Board (@RRWMB_MN) / Twitter

What industry/sector do you identify with?

Local Government

Number of employees, member patrons, growers, shareholders etc. in Minnesota:

The RRWMB has two full-time employees and several consultants that do specific work for the organization. The RRWMB was created by the Minnesota legislature in 1976 and is a joint powers board of 7 watershed districts in the Red River Basin of Minnesota. The primary focus of the RRWMB is to work with its membership on flood control, water storage, and overall watershed management with several partners in the Red River Basin. Our stakeholders are all taxpayers within our member watershed districts.

What about your organization or company’s work are you most proud of?

The RRWMB’s primary function is to assist its membership in funding flood control and water storage projects. Since 1976, the RRWMB has helped fund over 60 flood projects, approximately 300 farmstead ring dikes, and several hydrologic/hydraulic studies. The RRWMB has 8 flood projects currently in its funding process. The RRWMB is also in the process of updating LiDAR data for the Minnesota portion of the Red River Basin. In addition, the RRWMB approved a Water Quality Program in 2020 to assist its membership with water quality projects, with several projects either finished or in progress.

Please highlight key trends affecting your industry.

In the past, the RRWMB and its membership could fund approximately 50 percent of flood mitigation or water storage projects at the local level. With inflation and land prices, funds are needed through the State of Minnesota Flood Hazard Mitigation Program (FHMP). However, the FHMP has been inconsistently and inadequately funded by the State of Minnesota for several years. Since 1988, the FHMP has been allocated $516 million, with only 14 percent of that total going to watershed districts statewide for flood mitigation projects and this amount includes bond funds only. The current total funding need of the FHMP is over $150 million for flood mitigation projects across the State of Minnesota. Federal funds are difficult to obtain at best due to federal process and procedures, agency rules and program language, environmental review and permitting, and congressional appropriation language.

Talk about the key opportunities & challenges facing your business over the next 5 years.

Inflation is a key challenge for the construction of flood mitigation and water storage projects, with the RRWMB using the United States Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works Construction Cost Index (CWCCI) to adjust for inflation. From 2001 to 2020, inflation averaged 3.03 percent. In 2021 inflation for flood mitigation and water storage projects was 8.2 percent, with 2022 being at 15.4 percent. Inflation is significantly eroding the ability for the RRWMB and its membership to fund local flood mitigation and water storage projects to protect agricultural lands, public and private infrastructure in rural settings, and cities.    

Multipurpose flood mitigation and water storage projects in the Red River Basin can and do provide habitat, water quality, and other benefits to society – whether locally, regionally, statewide, or internationally. Ecosystem services and related markets provide emerging opportunities for the private sector to team up with the RRWMB and its membership. While the challenge of inflation remains, the RRWMB and its membership will continue to move forward with flood mitigation, water storage, and water quality projects in the Red River Basin of Minnesota.

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