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Feb 27

Future of Phosphorus

Posted on February 27, 2018 at 8:55 AM by Ryan Hiniker


Drainage update 2/26/2018



Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

·         CD35 (Mapleton Twp.) We will be hosting an informational landowner meeting for this public drainage system.  The purpose of this meeting is to discuss ongoing issues with the system, including cost of repairs and possible improvement ideas.  Landowners affected by this system should have received a notice from Blue Earth County containing details of times and dates of this meeting.  For questions or concerns pertaining to this meeting or this system please call or email.


Project Updates:


  • We will be opening bids for the CD48 Improvement project this Wednesday, February 28, after 2pm.  Official bid awarding will be held at the next available County Board Meeting after bid opening (likely March 13).


Drainage Minutes:

The last two weeks have been quite busy with meetings and seminars.  I was fortunate enough to attend two separate seminars.  The two seminars were very different in nature, except one common theme from both that grabbed my interest.  The one common theme from the two different seminars was phosphorus.  While they were different seminars, they both relayed that we need to do more and change our thought process about phosphorus.  It was very interesting to listen to the different scientists, engineers and experts of soil chemistry and fertility.

All of the discussion showed that we have a major issue with sediment runoff and the ill effects of phosphorus in the water column.  As many of us know, phosphorus is a major component to healthy plant life.  Phosphorus is unhealthy when it’s introduced to water, via sediment movement or by dissolved phosphorus through water.  Too much phosphorus in water can cause oxygen levels to drop and mineral and organic levels to increase.

For many years now, we have been trying to contain sediment and nutrient contamination by installing ponds or storm water basins.  Many of these ponds and basins end up draining at some point to a wetland, stream, lake or river.  The problem then is these contaminants move to the next body of water.  Sometimes the phosphorus moves through the sediment, but mostly it is the dissolved phosphorus that’s water soluble.  All of the experts agreed that this sediment and phosphorus has been banking up for decades.  The effects from these decades of banking will last even longer as the sediment in these wetlands, ponds, rivers and streams can actually re-release the particulate phosphorus into a dissolved phosphorus.  This happens usually in the heat of the summer when mineral and organic levels turn the water into an anaerobic situation, and the phosphorus and sediment actually separate and the phosphorus is now released into a soluble form.

No silver bullet method is known for dealing with slowing down or curing this situation as of yet.  Some have tested, or are currently testing, the ideas of installing more settling basins and then cleaning the basins on a routine schedule.  Aluminum sulfate has also been tested in hundreds of water bodies.  Aluminum sulfate can actually permanently bind phosphorus to sediment so it wouldn’t re-dissolve into dissolved phosphorus. 

All in all, we are getting closer to an answer for why we are seeing greener lakes and dirtier rivers and streams.  The big question is, has this happened before in history?  Is this a cycle that we are currently going through?  The blame for this situation can be shared by town and country.  We need to focus on the why and then on the how.  Why is this happening and how can we work to fix it?  Can it be fixed?  I know for me personally it opened my eyes to look at what we are doing for phosphorus and sediment reductions.  They were good speakers at both seminars, and I encourage people interested in this topic to read more on these speakers.  Speakers included: Joe Bischoff (Aquatic Ecologist with Wenck Associates), Dr. Don Flaten (University of Manitoba) and Tim Radatz (MAWRC, Minnesota Agricultural Water Resource Center).


Public Works Funds:

A $1.5 billion funding package for public works construction is on the discussion table at the Minnesota Legislature.  $167 million out of this package would help aging wastewater facilities to make much needed upgrades, which in turn improve water quality across the state. Click to read more.


Recent Drainage Inspections – weeks of February 12 – February 23:


  • CD76 (McPherson Twp.)  We had a contractor out digging holes to probe and locate depth and locations of major gas lines for a possible improvement project.
  • CD56 Branch 13 (Lincoln Twp.)  We were out digging holes and televising tile lines.  We use televising to determine the condition of old tile lines to determine repairs or improvements needed. Below is one of our dig sites for televising.  We had to use a frost tooth to break up the ground.televise



Please call with issues you observe on our public drainage system, as there is a lot of open ditch and tile in our county and only two of us in the drainage department.  We will do our absolute best to service your issues and concerns as we receive them.


We require that all repairs to a county drainage system (tile or open ditch) be authorized by one us in the drainage office, either Craig or myself, before any repairs are made.



 Frosty day at the farm Saturday morning.

Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist