DNR proposes to return Polk County watercourse to Public Waters Inventory

August 10, 2020

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comments on its proposal to make a correction to the Public Waters Inventory (PWI) by returning one watercourse in Polk County to the PWI. The PWI is used to identify waters that meet the statutory definition of public water and are regulated by the DNR for the public’s benefit.

The DNR has determined that this watercourse is an altered or natural watercourse that has a total drainage area greater than two square miles, thus meeting the statutory definition of a public watercourse. As a public water, this watercourse has been and will remain subject to all applicable public waters regulations, regardless of whether it is included in the PWI. Once returned to the PWI, this watercourse would be easily identified as being subject to public water regulations. If this watercourse is added back to the PWI, as proposed, then it will also be added to the buffer protection map and be subject to vegetative buffer requirements under Minnesota’s buffer law.

In 2017, 640 miles of watercourses in 70 counties were removed from the PWI through a DNR Commissioner’s Order. The changes were a result of the DNR buffer mapping project. Part of this effort revealed that some watercourses were not clearly identified as public waters at the time of the original inventory in the early 1980s. These watercourses were incorrectly identified as public ditches at the time of the original inventory, when in actuality they were not part of a public drainage system. This led to landowners not being properly notified of a public watercourse adjacent to their property. In its 2017 order, the DNR determined it was necessary to remove the watercourses subject to this earlier error from the PWI, given the lack of landowner notice. Part of the Commissioner’s Order stated, “The DNR may review the subject watercourses for possible inclusion in the PWI in the future, subject to requisite public comment opportunity prior to any additions to the PWI.”

The watercourse proposed to be returned to the PWI is in the following location:

  • Polk County, Unnamed Creek to Sand Hill River (formerly county ditch 133), 2.1 miles, Sletten Township, sections 16, 21, 22.

The DNR will accept written comments on this proposal until 4:30 p.m. Nov. 11. Written comments should be submitted to Public Waters Inventory Corrections, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN  55155-4025, or [email protected]. Questions may be submitted by email or U.S. mail, or by calling 651-259-5654.  Please note that comments may not be submitted by phone.

The DNR will respond to comments as part of its decision document taking final action on the proposal to return this watercourse to the PWI. The DNR will provide its final decision to all commenters, affected landowners and county officials. Public notification of the decision will also be made through media outlets. Because all comments and related information are part of the public record, commenters' names and email or postal addresses will also be published and publicly available as they appear in the materials they submit.