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Aug 20

Drainage Education Day

Posted on August 20, 2018 at 8:42 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 8/20/2018


Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  We will be officially awarding the bid approval for a major repair to a portion of the open ditch.  The work is set to start anytime after August 21 and to be finished by the end of September.  The need for a short timeline is because of the issue with the endangerment to the township road.

Project Updates:


  • JD09 (Le Ray Twp.)  This two-part improvement project is going strong.  We should be seeing a new pond going in this week, along with sub-lateral one.  We hope to see two contractors working together possibly later this week.  The southerly portion of this improvement could be done in the next few weeks.  The northerly portion could be a bit trickier, especially to the far north end of the project, dealing with two different wetland areas to work around.  We have had very good weather for working lately; hopefully it will stay this way for a while.  Yellow indicates new construction completed.JD09 south improvement map 08202018
  • CD48 (Cambria Twp.)   This improvement project is still set to start later this year.
  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  This will be a fairly good-sized repair involving large 60-inch pipe being installed to help stabilize sloughing issues.  This project should start very soon as the deadline is before harvest.
  • CD56 (Lincoln Twp.)  Public bidding has closed and an official announcement of the winning contractor is yet to come.  This major tile replacement project should start soon; I would guess before harvest.

Drainage Water Management Day:

Last Thursday, August 16, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a U of M Drainage Water Management Demonstration day in Lamberton, Minnesota.  This was a field day centered around drainage professionals.  Many different state agencies where in attendance, including multiple SWCD districts from across the state. 

Multiple different scientists from the University of Minnesota were in attendance to present and discuss projects in water quality that they have been working on.  There are multiple outreach and research facilities that the U of M manages all across the state.  Not all of the research sites study water quality and drainage.  Lamberton is a good location for this sort of testing as this is a very heavily agricultural area of the state.  This drainage testing facility has been around for a number of years, but this is my first experience with it.

The majority of the day was an actual in-field tour of the four major testing sites for water quality practices. The first stop was at a wetland testing area.  They had many different types of wetlands on display.  What made them different was how each one managed water into and out of the wetland. 

Stop number two was a bioreactor testing site.  This was one of the most interesting stops for me.  They had many small bioreactor simulations set up testing many different things like trying to remove nitrates and phosphorus.  The U of M is even experimenting with using some alternative materials and trying to combine them into a sort of “super” bioreactor.  These new generation bioreactors are supposed to collect and remove both nitrates and phosphorus particles in the water.  The primary concern of the research for the moment is the nitrates in the water.  Phosphorus studies are still being conducted also.

Third stop of the tour took us to a demonstration of their “in-stream ditches” test area.  This is an area where they have three open ditch channels that collect all of the water passing through the 100 plus acre farm.  Two of the channels are currently being used to conduct testing on peak flows and sediment, side intakes, and storage or temporary impoundment of water. 

The fourth and final stop was to look at and discuss cover crop and cropping management.  This was also a very interesting stop for me because they showed how they are using different cover crops to prevent erosion and manage soil health.  One of the key crops that they spoke about and are testing heavily is Camelina.  I spoke last week in my blog about this cover crop and the potential uses and benefits it could have.  It was very interesting to see first hand just how it works out in the field.  It was interesting to hear how easy it is to work with and the benefits they are seeing from it through their research.

The field day was very well put together and the information was great.  It is always interesting to go and learn from of some of the best in the industry.  Not to toot our own horn in Blue Earth County, but many of these practices that they spoke about on the tour are already in practice somewhere in Blue Earth County.  We are very active in installing alternative side-intakes and using both on-channel and off-channel storage.  We have tried two-stage ditches and we are looking to possibly install a few smaller bioreactors.  We are always looking for new and better ways of improving water quality.

lamberton sight

Recent Drainage Inspections – week of August 13 – August 17:

  • JD48 (Butternut Valley Twp.)  We had a contractor finish the repair work needed for our open ditch system near Lieberg Lake.  Picture below of completed work.jd48 lieberg repair 2
  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  We have a contractor that will be making some major repairs to a small area of the open ditch near a township road that is in danger of sloughing away.
  • CD86 (Beauford Twp.)  Beavers from last winter are still active in this open ditch area.  We have three new beaver dams from last winter.  We have a contractor that is actively installing new “ASI” intakes.  ASI stands for alternative side intake.  These ASI structures are to help improve water quality by reducing the amount of sediment going into the open ditch. 
  • JD48 (Butternut Valley Twp.)  The mowing of weeds and grasses was effective.  Now that the weeds are short enough to spray with herbicide, we plan on spraying whatever re-growth comes back before fall.  Going forward in years to come, I am actually leaning towards a mow and spray program for all open ditches in the county.  The mowing is very beneficial to managing the weeds, but also good for the grasses as they usually grow back even thicker than before.  For many of these areas where we will have new buffers planted, mowing is sometimes the safest management tool instead of herbicide that could possibly damage the newer seedlings.
  • JD07 (Lincoln Twp.)  We were out televising last week on a tile portion of this system.  We had reports of ponding water and that warranted the tile investigation.  We did discover an area of previous repair that had failed.  It's not too surprising to see the old concrete fail right next to the newer plastic pipe.
  • On a general side note, I have received multiple calls about an invasive weed species that is literally taking over areas.  Not just ditch bank areas, but road ditches, groves and even in some areas of row-crops.  What is this nasty, out-of-control weed species you ask? Wild Cucumber.  It is a viney weed species that grows very rapidly and produces spikey looking seed pods.  We are going to be spraying for this and all species of invasive weed species as part of our three-year rotation.  Some areas may require additional attention, and we will handle those on an individual basis.wild cucumber


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