Preserving the natural area of the heron rookery in Rochester Township supports regional watershed protection and restoration efforts.

As the non-metro elected official position on the Minnesota State Board of Water and Soil Resources, I voted to approve the Greater Zumbro River One Watershed One Plan. This plan identifies and prioritizes watershed-based projects to protect and restore our water resources. Preserving the Heron Rookery protects Cascade Creek from additional stormwater runoff and erosion that is typical after development. Native, pervious surfaces enable stormwater to soak into the ground where it falls, decreasing runoff and erosion into the surrounding landscape.

Additionally, Cascade Creek is selected by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to participate in an EPA 319 Small Watershed program. The program’s goal is to remove Cascade Creek from the impaired waters list in Olmsted County. Preserving and restoring natural habitats along Cascade Creek increases the chance of meeting the Cascade Creek restoration goal. The Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District and the City of Rochester are currently in partnership seeking EPA 319 grant funding. Compared to residential development, a Scientific Natural Area (SNA) incorporating the Heron Rookery can have a positive impact on Cascade Creek.

Sustainable development, utilizing conservation-design principles is critical to preserve the Heron Rookery. It is time to acknowledge the benefits natural habitats provide to our built environments and place importance on biodiversity and ecosystems that counteract the negative impacts of a changing climate. By not doing so, we face greater negative economic effects in the future.

Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, MS, MN State Board of Water and Soil Resources, Rochester