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Nov 16

Going Big for Water Quality

Posted on November 16, 2021 at 4:57 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 11/16/2021


Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:

 Blue Earth County Board meetings are occurring in-person.  Board meeting agendas and information packets are available online prior to the meeting; please see the agenda for virtual participation options.  We ask those that wish to attend in-person abide by current CDC guidelines.  Masks are recommended in all county buildings.

  • CD52 and CD86, both systems have upcoming hearings.  Affected landowners should receive notice via U.S. Mail.  Notice will include details of times, location, and how to participate - even remotely if you wish not to attend our in-person hearings.


Going Large Scale With Water Storage:

Interesting article I found on the BWSR, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, website.  It was an article discussing a very large-scale water storage project located in Mower County.  Mower County SWCD staff, along with BWSR and other private donors, helped to raise a very large amount of funding for this water quality structure.  The structure in the article uses a very large berm, smaller outlet pipes, drop structures, and large areas of grass waterway easement.  The area had a history of overland flooding and erosion issues.  The idea behind this structure seems simple enough, but its benefits are outstanding in the amount of peak flow reductions it has within Dobbins Creek. With the reduced peak flows also comes the reductions in sediment and nutrient loading into neighboring waterways.  Dobbins Creek received around $1.5 million in grant support from BWSR and other funding supported by local business and private partners looking to improve water quality for Dobbins Creek, as well as downstream Cedar River.  

Mower County Project

This type of structure and scale is not a one-size fits all, by any means, but it’s interesting to see how something like this can make such a huge and immediate difference in future water quality for the Dobbins Creek area.  We have done something similar in concept to this project, but nowhere near the scale of Dobbins Creek’s 2,000-foot-long berm.  On an improvement project located near Madison Lake, JD09, we used existing wetlands, and a specialized concrete structure that would allow normal flows to go through the normal tile line, but in larger rain events waters would be somewhat backed up into the surrounding wetlands for a certain amount of time.  Timing is what’s key in reducing sediment and nutrients, and we learned this on this project.  

It’s good to see projects being done and especially the participation of willing landowners to make these types of projects even possible.  We always include plans to include water quality type structures in all our major repair or improvement plans. We call them MDM plans, or Multipurpose Drainage Management plans.  Theses MDM plans include all types of water quality, from cover crops to water quality intakes, to wetland restoration plans.  Just because we put these plans together for these repairs or improvements, does not mean that they must be implemented.  Many of these practices are simple enough but take landowner cooperation as well.  As water quality is becoming more and more of a known thing, more landowners are participating.  We still have a long way to go and more education is needed by all involved parties, but little steps will soon turn into big jumps in water quality.

For more reading on this interesting article please follow the provided link.                                                                                                                                   


Project Updates:   

  • JD17 (Garden City Twp.)  We are hoping that all checklist / closeout items can be completed yet this year.  All major construction is completed and cleaned up.  
  • JD14 (Judson Twp.)  The general contractor has been making great strides over the past few weeks to get all remaining new tile installed.   We still have a couple thousand linear feet left to install, but completion is very achievable at this point.  Final checklist items will still need to be done, but the new tile should be completed and fully functional yet this side of the year.
  • JD15 (Jamestown Twp.)  Project officially awarded…no updates at this point.
  • JD15 (Lincoln Twp.)  One of our contractors just finished replacing an old original concrete line that was causing issues under Blue Earth County Highway 32, in Lincoln Township.  After multiple sink hole issues in the actual road itself, a rerouted path outside of the current road surface was chosen.  The new HDPE 8-inch tile line runs down the westerly right-of-way of CSAH 32.  Old original line is hereby abandoned and shouldn’t cause any additional issues.


Recent Drainage Inspections:

  • JD36 (Cambria Twp.)  Between beaver issues on portions of the open ditch and replacing portions of old 8-inch concrete laterals, I have spent a fair amount of time on this drainage system in the past few weeks.   New lateral is installed but discovered other issues with additional branch work needed to replace portions of original 14- and 18-inch tile.  
  • JD48 (Butternut Valley Twp.)  A few areas will see some late-season mowing.
  • CD27 (Garden City Twp.)  Annual inspections and finding a few areas needing repairs and areas with vegetative buffer issues.
  • JD15 (Lincoln Twp.)  Newly rerouted tile line is installed and functioning beautifully.  Additional sink holes and issues were found while doing work to new tile line. Branch 1 Lateral A will need some additional work.  
  • CD28 (Lincoln Twp.)  Some late season mowing and buffer area clean-up is coming.  A few areas that need buffer reseeding, but otherwise things are looking great for this drainage system.
  • CD56 (Garden City Twp.)  Branch 22 was found to be in very poor shape.  Between areas of misaligned tiles, partial collapsed tiles and illegal repairs to portions, this branch will need a full replacement.  Preliminary engineering will be going on by televising and tile investigation.

Now that harvest is done, or almost done for most growers, please remember to call in any public drainage system issues you discover while out in the field.  If you’re not certain that it’s a county drainage system issue, give me a call and we will be glad to verify it in field.

We have multiple areas that we will be doing some sizeable repairs to tile lines.  Some of these repairs will be done yet this year, hopefully.  We will also be televising some all-tile line systems, primarily in Ceresco Township.  Many of these all tile systems have not been inspected in depth since they were installed.   Inspecting tile lines isn’t always easy to do either as it requires specialized machines that are relatively new to the drainage world.

Please remember that repairs to county drainage systems must be repaired by qualified contractors.   All repairs need to be inspected by drainage staff before authorizing work.  Unauthorized work will be denied payment.  Call with questions on this matter.  

Special note, as I am making some annual inspections along areas of open ditches, I am noticing an increasing number of buffer violation areas.  Please remember that all 103E drainage systems are required to have a 16.5-foot buffer along the open ditch areas.  Wondering if your ditch falls into the 103E category, give me a call or email.


Do you have questions or topics about drainage that you would like to hear more about? If you would like me to incorporate those concerns or topics in one of my future blogs, please feel free to email me at the listed email address below.  


We have multiple contractors making repairs across the county currently.  Please report repair issues to our drainage staff as soon as you notice them, as this will expedite the time in getting those repairs made.


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 Ryan, before any repairs are made.  We also do not allow any permanent or seasonal items to be placed in our open ditches or buffer areas.  These types of items would include rocks, fence posts, trailers or other agricultural equipment, just to mention a few items.  If you have questions or concerns with open ditches or buffers, please call.




Ryan Hiniker

Drainage Management Specialist