In addition to past efforts and research projects, there are a number of uncoordinated efforts underway with various scopes, magnitudes and outcomes that are striving for a similar goal, but to date have not been comprehensively coordinated. It is the latter that has brought forth the genesis of Zumbro & Friends and this proposal to develop a COMPREHENSIVE Watershed Flood Control and Mitigation Plan. It is time to bring these past efforts together and develop the right course of action at a watershed level.
How Will This Be Accomplished?
Zumbro & Friends has developed strategic partnerships that will coalesce into a purpose that is larger than the sum of their parts. Zumbro & Friends recognizes that a comprehensive watershed flood control and mitigation plan not only requires technical hydraulic and engineering experts, but also a comprehensive civic engagement strategy. Zumbro & Friends has already developed the necessary partnerships to accomplish these tasks. The watershed contains stakeholders with varying interests across numerous political boundaries; and because water does not recognize political boundaries, Zumbro & Friends strategic partnerships will aid in establishing a temporary Joint Powers Organization to coordinate authority across these boundaries.
The Zumbro River Watershed is located in southeastern Minnesota and includes portions of Rice, Goodhue, Wabasha, Steele, Dodge and Olmsted counties. It encompasses 1,422 square miles (~1 million acres) and is populated by approximately 170,000 people.
Millions of dollars have been diverted to reactive flood cleanup efforts; whereas the communities believe proactive funding could help prevent this level of devastation from occurring again. The full economic impact will likely remain unknown due to the massive volunteer efforts that came together to support the local communities – but it is undoubtedly significant.
Why "Now" and Why "This Approach"
The response to the 2010 disaster was an example of how governments, businesses, and residents in this region recognize the importance of working together across civic and community boundaries for a common goal. The convergence of energies and partners in this time and this place bring a unique opportunity to create a model for flood mitigation across the state and beyond. Floods, and the devastation they cause, are not unique to the Zumbro River region. However, here in southeastern Minnesota, we are recognized as having some of the best working relationships across sectors – not only in the state, but regionally and nationally.
Capitalizing on this momentum could reap benefits not just in the Zumbro River region, but for flood mitigation efforts statewide. In the last five years alone, the state of Minnesota has seen major flood devastation throughout the state. These are repeated patterns for which viable solutions have been difficult to find. It is time for a fresh approach, a proactive approach, a cross-community, cross-sector approach. This approach will not only provide much needed infrastructure along the Zumbro Watershed, but it could serve as a blueprint for similar regions across the state of Minnesota.
Although the timing is unknown; floods will happen again. Not acting now will foster the same pattern of continued land development without comprehensive knowledge of what the risks are. Acting now will allow for organized and thought-out development of land that considers the wishes of all stakeholders and is the best investment model for the citizens of Minnesota and our tax dollars. This is our moment to keep building on the synergies already established to change the course of history, to protect this area, its natural, cultural and economic resources from continued devastation of flooding events.