The Lake Improvement District Statute of 1976 (Chapter 378 MN Statutes 2005, § 103B.501 to
103B.581) and resulting Lake Improvement Districts represent one of Minnesota’s lesser-known
citizen-driven water resource management initiatives. Loosely coordinated through the
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) Division of Waters, diffusion of the
program has been slow. MN DNR records from 2009 indicate that after over three decades there
are only 32 active Lake Improvement Districts (LIDs) in Minnesota. Using LIDs as an inroad to
study the connection between water policy and citizen participation in water stewardship
activities, the project’s findings expose the strengths and weaknesses of LIDs in structuring
citizen participation in lake management activities. These findings broadly inform future water
policies aiming to have citizen participation in water resource management activities as a policy
This research is timely as Minnesota, with the assistance of the University of Minnesota, begins
to build a 25-year framework to guide the protection, conservation and enhancement of surface
water quality and quantity. A key finding is that the citizens who attempted LID formation
often found themselves attempting to be recognized stakeholders in a complex water
governance system that they perceived to be as impenetrable as it was intimidating. As
indicated by project interviews, it took a threat to either their homes or way of life to motivate
citizens to overcome their aversion to policy and government to pursue formation of a LID and
take responsibility for local lake management. Findings therefore provide a useful starting point
for understanding citizen perceptions of the state’s water governance system and perceived
challenges to actively participating in surface water management activities.
Steiger-Meister, Kaitlin; Becker, Dennis R..
The Role of Local Stakeholders in Water Resource Management: Characterization and Diffusion of Minnesota Lake Improvement Districts.
University of Minnesota.
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