On Jan. 1, 2020, the Crow River Organization of Water (CROW)
was disbanded as Minnesota transitioned into the “One Watershed, One Plan”
initiative. The CROW served 10 counties in a joint powers capacity – Carver,
Hennepin, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Renville, Sibley, Stearns and Wright
counties. The mission of the CROW was to improve the water quality of the Crow
River basin through educational outreach and collaboration with its partners
One of the initiatives the CROW did for many years was
administer a low-interest Subsurface Sewage Treatment System (SSTS) program through
the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s Clean Water Partnership. The program
allowed homeowners with non-compliant or failing septic systems to receive low
interest loans to repair or replace them.
Wright County Environmental Health Officer Bill
Stephens came before the Wright County Board of Commissioners at its June 16
meeting to request the opportunity to continue the SSTS program.
“I’m here ask the board to adopt a resolution to allow
us to apply for the Clean Water Partnership loan program,” Stephens said. “This
is for a low-interest septic loan program we’ve been running for 10 years. But,
we were receiving our funding through the Crow River Organization of Water.
They were the organization that was actually acquiring the loans through the
MPCA. Since they disbanded, we’re now kind of left to do it ourselves.”
The county board unanimously approved a resolution
allowing Stephens to submit the application for funding through the MPCA to
keep the program operational in Wright County. The county will ask for $500,000
in funding over a three-year period.
Commissioner Mike Potter praised the effort, since the
reporting documents estimated that 19 percent of septic systems in Wright
County were failing or non-compliant. Given the value of water resources to
the county, maintaining the program is critical to continuing the effort to
keep lakes, rivers and streams in the county clean of septic runoff.
“This is important for Wright County,” Potter said. “We
have a lot of lakes and want to keep them clean. This is the way for people who
have subsurface sewage issues a way to get them in compliance. It’s been a challenge
for Wright County and a lot of places for a long time. This is one of those
programs I like supporting because it helps all of us.”
Stephens said the program has been well received by county
residents and has helped fix many septic systems and, in turn, protect the
water quality in Wright County. He added that his office is merely picking up
the baton from the CROW to keep the loan program from going away.
“I want to give total credit to the Crow River Organization
of Water for getting us in this program to start with,” Stephens said. “We just
want to continue it locally ourselves.”