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Plan is taking shape for Vermillion River corridor

Dakota County is still putting together its plan for the future of the Vermillion River corridor, but a draft released recently makes one thing clear: The county doesn't plan to do anything alone.

The first of the guiding principles listed in the 101-page draft plan states that protecting the Vermillion is "everybody's responsibility today and for tomorrow's generations."

So, while the county plans to do what it can with new rules for development and has money to make some projects possible, it also will count on participation from land owners who are willing to play a part.

The county's draft plan calls for a number of small projects with landowners. Projects could include stabilizing streambanks to reduce erosion, creating new buffer zones along the river and adding back the channel's natural curves in areas where the river was long-ago straightened to create more room for farming and other uses.

Dakota County has applied for a $500,000 grant that would allow it to buy permanent easements for buffers along the river.

Exactly what the projects will look like and where they will take place has not yet been determined. The needs vary from one end of the river to the other. At the western end of the Vermillion, in Lakeville and Farmington and Empire Township, there has been very little development and the river has a reputation as a high-quality trout stream. The county's draft plan looks for ways to preserve that cold, clean water even as development continues.

Farther to the east, in Hastings, the needs are different. Much of the land there has already been developed.

Projects in developed areas could include increased use of so-called pervious pavement that would allow rainwater to run through rather than funneling it quickly to rivers, and efforts to expand rainwater gardens.

The plan also calls for improved recreational access to the river. Much of the river runs through private property, with access available only at road crossings. Farmington's Rambling River Park is one of the few public stretches of the river west of Highway 52.

Early discussion of the plan created unease among some property owners concerned the county planned to take control of their land out of their hands, but the county has said its goal is only to encourage landowners to keep the interests of the river in mind and to set some guidelines for future projects.

As part of the plan the county has created a web page,, anyone who is interested can see how the plan might affect them. The draft version of the plan is available there and at The county will take public comment on the plan through Sept. 25 at or at an open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Extension and Conservation Center in Farmington.