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Apr 22

Combined Forces

Posted on April 22, 2019 at 5:16 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 4/22/2019


Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

  • No upcoming meetings or hearings.

Project Updates:   

  • CD86 (Beauford Twp.)  Due to the wet conditions from last week’s heavy rains, the contractor will need additional time to finish clean-up efforts. 
  • CD48 (Cambria Twp.)  Wet conditions for this project last week, with reports of over two inches of rain in this area.  The pipe boring is completed to our knowledge and most of the pipe boring equipment is moved off-site. 
  • JD09 (Le Ray Twp.)  The contractor was on this project site last week to level the areas where the new tile was installed.  Final checklist and clean-up items might have to wait for the conditions to dry out.
  • JD34 (Le Ray Twp.)  No work from the general contractor on this project last week.

Combining Forces:

We all at Blue Earth County try our best to keep up with technology and be as efficient as we can.  Sometimes improved efficiency goes hand-in-hand with technology.  I may have spoke about our use of drones in drainage and how we are also using them for engineering. 

Blue Earth County now has a drone.  The new drone is being primarily used by our Sheriff’s department.  The Sheriff’s department has a staff of five registered pilots to fly and operate the drone. 

Though it's still new, they have put it to use in many situations already,
 including recovery, assisting a fire department, drainage, and other situations.  I’m sure they will find many uses for it going forward. 

One of the main advantages for us in using it in drainage is the overhead vantage point.  We can see so much more from the air that you would never see from the ground while driving in the ATV.  The tiles that are submerged, the erosion issues, sloughs and other potential issues are all things that you would only capture from the air.

The second part of being able to use a drone is we don’t have to worry about muddy conditions or if there are crops in the field.  I try to do many of my open ditch inspections in the spring and fall of the year.  Many times, it is too wet or there are other issues why I might not be able to get an ATV out to inspect the ditch.  The drone can fly in just about any weather, although preferably not severe or windy weather.

The technology of the cameras on the drones is incredible, including  30 times zoom, inferred thermal imaging, and spatial georeferencing.  I plan on trying to use the thermal image camera to try to pick up tile lines. 

Along with all the great technology of drone usage also comes in the efficiency factor.  We flew an open ditch system that would have taken me the better part of a half a day to thoroughly drive. The drone flew it in just over one hour.  The drone had better detail and a larger area of inspection than I could do driving on the ground. 

I’m not making the statement that the drone will replace using the ATV and doing ground inspections.  The drone can give great detail to where the problem areas are and the follow up with the ATV and ground-truthing can follow.  Check out some of the photos we took from the drone.

drone pic 1
The DJI drone all put together and ready for action.

Notice the submerged tile in the upper portion of the picture above.  Amazing detail, even from 160 feet above the ground.

This photo was taken from around 660 feet away, just to give a quick idea of some of the zoom capability.  It can and did zoom in even closer, at one point you could almost read the license plate on the truck from 660 feet away.

Recent Drainage Inspections – week of April 15 – April 19:

  • CD12 (Mankato Twp.)  Inspecting the repairs of last year from our open ditch cleaning project.  We still have some issues with additional grass seeding needed and a couple minor areas of cleaning. 
  • CD53 (Garden City Twp.)  Inspected issues with a collapsing surface intake.
  • JD40 (Vernon Center Twp.)  Issue with a tile collapse as a sink hole is starting to form along a portion of this tile system.
  • CD56 (Garden City & Lincoln Twps.) Inspected multiple areas of sink holes from tile collapses and multiple slough issues along portions of the open ditch.
  • JD38 (Shelby Twp.)  I stopped by to check on a large drop intake structure we have that helps drain portions of the City of Amboy along with maintaining water levels in a nearby wetland.  This is an interesting system, as it drains agricultural tile and city storm water and provides wetland maintenance.
  • JTD01 FAR. (Sterling Twp.)  Stopped by to inspect the inlet of this county system, which is actually one of the outlets for Lura Lake.  The structure is prone to getting plugged with floating debris.  Plans are being discussed on how to improve the structure to avoid so much maintenance and improve the lake levels.
  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  Inspected issues with tile collapsing / sink holes.  The issues turned out to be on an old abandoned concrete tile line.

We are seeing a fairly large amount of tile repairs coming in this time of year.  The unfortunate thing is we are still trying to work through our repair list from last year, 2018.  Please report issues you see on our public drainage systems, whether it’s a tile system or an open ditch system.  The repairs are usually fixed in the order they are received, so please don’t wait to let us know about issues you observe on public drainage systems, as the list grows daily.

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