In 2017 Otter Tail County and area counties adopted the philosophy of “One Watershed, One Plan.” Three years later, this philosophy is working well, county officials say.

This plan is intended to use the existing structures of county government, soil and water conservation districts and watershed districts while increasing collaboration across county lines.

The challenge comes from the fact that four major watersheds and four minor watersheds are situated in Otter Tail County, a county that’s larger than the state of Rhode Island.

A watershed is an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall to a common outlet such as the outflow of a reservoir or any point along a stream channel. The word watershed is sometimes used interchangeably with drainage basin or catchment.

County commissioners have expertise from Brad Mergens and Darren Newville.

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Mergens is manager for the West Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District office based in Fergus Falls. Newville is manager for the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District office based in Perham.

In 2015 Mergens and Newville were named Outstanding District Employees of the Year by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Common goals addressed

The goal of the county board, Mergens, Newville, Board of Water and Soil Resources and area counties is to prevent erosion, ensure continued soil productivity, protect water quality, reduce damages caused by floods, preserve wildlife and protect public lands.

County commissioners have in place an action plan while dealing with the eight watersheds in Otter Tail County.

“It’s one thing to be educated about watersheds, but it’s another thing to know what we should be looking for,” says County Board Chairman Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls.

Commissioner John Lindquist of Dalton is familiar with the Pomme de Terre watershed in southern Otter Tail County, after attending several meetings. The Pomme de Terre River begins in Otter Tail County, bordered by wooded hills and grassy meadows.

This watershed includes the counties of Otter Tail, Douglas (Alexandria), Grant (Elbow Lake), Big Stone (Ortonville), Stevens (Morris) and Swift (Benson).