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Feb 19

Ditch Happenings February 8th - 19th

Posted on February 19, 2016 at 2:58 PM by Acacia Wytaske

On February 11th, I attended the Rinke Noonan Drainage and Wetlands Conference in St. Cloud. Over 240 people; including drainage viewers, commissioners, farmers and government employees, gathered to hear information on responsibly administering public drainage to ensure the protection of land and water resources while meeting state regulatory requirements.
The first presentation covered the obligations to the Drainage Authority. The "Drainage Authority" is the board or joint county drainage authority having jurisdiction over a drainage system or project.  (State Statute 103E.005, subd. 9) In Blue Earth County, the Board of Commissioners act as the Drainage Authority.
The responsibility of the Drainage Authority is to protect the drainage right by keeping the system in a state of repair, prevent damages, prevent unauthorized use and ensure "fair share". The Drainage Authority is also responsible for the balance of economic and environmental interests. The presentation went into details on all these topics. It was a great review of the MN State Statutes governing public drainage.
Dr. Patrick Belmont, Associate Professor of Watershed Sciences of the Utah State University presented on targeted water storage to maintain productive land and restore clean water. He focused on sediment and nutrient problems in MN, citing the cause of sediment as 26% uplands, 5% ravines and 69% bluffs, banks, and channel incision.  One of his slides showed an erosion issue on the Blue Earth River in Blue Earth County's Rapidan Township. This is a recent picture, but in his slide he showed the river's slow but aggressive movement eroding over 150' of land to the east since 1991.
Today, most sediment comes from near-channel sources, amplified by increased flows.  So how do we slow the flow?
Answer: Store more water in the landscape; make better use of existing water storage sites, install new water detention basins, controlled drainage, increase soil carbon, continue to maintain and improve field practices, and provide incentives with minimal obstacles.
The next presentation focused on property rights in drainage. Private drainage agreements and MN Law case studies were also discussed.
Rinke Noonan did a regulatory overview of the Wetland Conservation Act, Clean Water Act and Impaired Waters. Waters of the Unites States (WOTUS) was discussed and what is not considered WOTUS.
Dave Leuthe of the DNR gave a presentation on the new Buffer Legislation and went over the phases of developing the Preliminary Buffer Protection Maps. DaveLeuthe1.jpg
Speaking of the Buffer Legislation, also known as the Buffer Bill, have you heard there's been some changes? It's become well known that there's still a lot to be settled before we'll start to see movement on the Buffer Bill.  You can stay informed by following the Blue Earth County Soil & Water Conservation District's 2015 Buffer Legislation Page. Here, you will find up-to-date information and helpful links. Read the Star Tribune's recent article outlining the most recent changes here.
The day concluded with a presentation from Houston Engineering regarding tips and technology for Drainage System Management. One impressive new inspection technology is the use of drones. The drone flies overhead and gives a birds eye view of the system. We watched some footage from a recent inspection done by a drone and it was easy to see where there was drainage issues along the ditch. We currently use an ATV to inspect our ditches, this allows close up inspections at a decent pace. I've been thinking about trying to talk Craig into letting me inspect the ditches on a fat bike... here's a picture from last weekend taken at Quarry Ridge in Madison, WI. :)
At the very end of the seminar, my blog was featured! That was a pleasant surprise!

Weekly Tidbits:

  - This week we sent out notices to JD116 (Pleasant Mound Township), CD05 (Medo & Danville Townships) and CD86 (Decoria & Beauford Townships)landowners to invite them to an informational meeting to discuss the findings of the watershed inventory and finalize the Multi-Purpose Drainage Management Plan. Click on the Ditch number to view the notices that were sent.

  - At this week's Commissioner's Board Meeting, the CD78 (Vernon Center Township) Improvement Project Bid was awarded to Dave Hulstein Excavating from Edgerton, MN with a bid of $596,861.50. 

One more fat bike picture to complete this blog... this is me (far left) with 4 other fat bike friends at the US National Fat Bike Crit Race in Madison, WI last weekend. We raced 10 laps around the Capital building. It was a blast!
Casey Wytaske
Taxpayer Service Specialist - Drainage & Taxation