View All Posts

Jun 11

Groundwater Game Plan

Posted on June 11, 2018 at 5:26 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 6/11/2018



Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

·         No upcoming hearings or meetings at this time.


Project Updates:


  • JD34 (Le Ray Twp.) Considering the weather, the subcontractor out on this improvement project is doing a great job.  The crews are finished with the tile install on the northerly parts of this system.  Parts of Branch 6 and a lateral running to the most southerly part of this new system still remain to be completed.  If the weather could turn nice, I think our subcontractor could finish most of the tile install in the next few weeks.  There still will be some clean up and punch list items before calling it complete.


  • JD09 (Le Ray Twp.)  We didn’t quite get a weeks’ worth of work done on this improvement project.  The tree contractor ground up what trees he could reach and the contractor did clean all of the open ditch, just in time before these last big rains.  The water level of the ditch dropped almost two feet because of the build up of sediment in a few spots.  Hopefully the weather will turn to be a bit nicer this week.  Talking with the contractor, they will probably start installing pipe in the southerly part of this improvement.  The new sediment pond was supposed to be the first order of business, but the extremely wet conditions aren’t conducive to moving and shaping dirt.


Groundwater Protection Rule:

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture, or MDA, has formally published their Groundwater Protection Rule, formerly known as the Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule.  On April 30, 2018 this new rule was officially added to the Minnesota State Register.  Following this April 30 date, is also a 80-day comment period. 

This comment period is critical to those who are affected by this proposed rule change.  Many agricultural groups throughout the state are watching this rule change very closely, and many are voicing their opinions as a group to the Governor.  This comment period is open to the public, not just farmers or agriculture-related professionals.  The driving force behind this rule change is the rising levels of nitrates being found in many drinking water systems and wells throughout the state.

This new Groundwater Protection Rule is very lengthy and wordy.  I was fortunate to hear about this project at its early stages when it was proposed to be introduced as a Nitrogen Fertilizer Rule.  I was attending a meeting in Mankato where the MDA was one of the guest speakers and discussed the possibilities of this new rule.  Anyone who knows me knows I’m not afraid to comment or ask questions.  My concerns and questions focused around the industry and how did they (MDA) propose the agricultural retailers and co-ops handle the additional issues of shorter timeframe for fertilizer season, but most of all the  logistics of storing and handling such a short window to get all acres covered.  My concerns and questions were very similar to many others in the room and also to other groups that the MDA had spoken to about this.

I’m not going to go into great depth about the rules and regulations of this new Groundwater Protection Rule, but I will give highlights.  The MDA has been conducting years and years of studies about the increasing issues with nitrates in Minnesota drinking waters.  Part of their studies show that the areas with the biggest issues are also some of the same areas with lighter more vulnerable soils that are more prone to nitrogen leaching and mobility.  These areas for the most part are lighter, sandy, rocky soils or also areas with a high water table.  The MDA is looking to restrict fall applications of nitrogen to coarse soils. 

Many of these areas with coarse soils have started switching from liquid nitrogen sources, NH3 (anhydrous) to more stable sources of nitrogen, like urea with nitrogen stabilizer added.  Nitrogen is one of the more expensive fertilizer inputs on the farm each year, so many growers know better than to waste it or use inefficient methods.

The article I was reading about this topic was good in realizing that as fellow Minnesotans, let's collectively figure a solution instead of pointing a finger.  Agriculture is not the only industry to blame when it comes to issues with drinking water.  I think we often forget about our own household chemicals we throw down the drain that we think are magically gone.  Other large industries also contribute to water quality issues.  This is just another step in Minnesota’s commitment to cleaning up waters, both drinking waters and recreational.  The comment period doesn’t have a lot of time left, so those who want their voice to be heard should consider making it heard soon.  If you're looking for more reading on this subject just click.  Below is an example of a commercial fertilizer spreader.




Recent Drainage Inspections – week of June 4 – June 8:


·         JD09 FAR (Sterling Twp.)  One of our contractors made repairs to a plugged portion of county tile that went under a township road.  The old clay tile partially collapsed and was causing issues with overland flooding.

·         CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  Major slough repairs have been made and are holding up well against the heavy rains lately.  We also have a large sink hole that is on a portion of old tile near one the new solar farms.

·         JD07 WAT (Lincoln Twp.)  Still waiting to televise two portions of this system.  As to be expected, water levels in the tile are still much to full to do any televising. 

·         JD24 (Shelby Twp.)  Large sink hole over county tile in grass waterway.  Usually a good sign of a broken tile that’s sucking in a bunch of dirt from flowing water in tile.

·         CD56 (Garden City Twp.)  I was called out to inspect a couple areas of collapsed old concrete county tile.  The repairs were made same day.

·         JD34 (LeRay Twp.)  I like to stop in and check on progress of the contractor to gauge how much work we have left.

·         CD12 (Mankato Twp.)  The repair work for phase two of this system is done for the most part, minus some seeding and clean-up.  We do still have a small portion of phase one that needs some ditch cleaning.  This area is near the intersection of the new middle school just to the east of MN highway 22.  Picture of ditch below after heavy rains.

·         CD28 (Lincoln Twp.)  A smaller sink hole area is starting to form along the old concrete line of this system.  More than likely just a separated tile section.

·         CD95 (Mapleton Twp.)  We had a contractor make repairs to a slough in a portion of open ditch.

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.




Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist