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Mar 17

Water Quality and Buffer Updates

Posted on March 17, 2017 at 5:25 PM by Ryan Hiniker

Drainage update 3/17/2017

Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meeting:

  • CD56 (Garden City Twp.)  We will be awarding the bid officially to the contractor.
  • CD86 (Decoria Twp.) & CD12 (Mankato Twp.)  We are holding preconstruction landowner meetings next week, March 20.  Those affected by these repair projects should have received mailers explaining times and locations for the meetings.

Project Updates:

  • CD28 (Lincoln Twp) Nothing new to speak of on this project.  No date has been provided by the contractor of when they might start back up. 

Drainage Minutes:

We had a pretty busy week with multiple meetings that were drainage related.  On Monday of this week we traveled to Willmar for the annual MADI (Minnesota Association of Drainage Inspectors) meeting.  It is very interesting and informative to get to meet and talk with folks from across the state that are doing what we do on a daily basis.  We in Blue Earth County are very fortunate that we are one of the more advanced counties as far as technology and how we go about our daily drainage business. 

madi photoThe seminar covered four main topics: drone use for drainage inspections, drainage issues from a legal standpoint, the new Minnesota Public Drainage Manual, and Drainage DB software updates.  As many may know, we use this Drainage DB software daily for what we do in the drainage office.  The software is both a mobile application and a PC-based program.  It is very beneficial and flexible for using out in the field.

We had another meeting this week with a contractor and supplier company.  We are looking into alternative seeding methods - especially in some of our ditch systems that are constantly having issues with sloughing and step ditch side banks.  The conventional way of fixing them is by pulling the material up and putting fabric and riprap material down.  With the new technology coming in the hydro-seeding world, there’s some very interesting products that may replace this riprap and fabric method of fixing slough areas.  We had a very interesting hour-long discussion on what the product is and does and the applications best suited for these products.  The product is called ProGanics; do some reading on it,  if you're interested.

Minnesota Water Quality Effort and Buffer Updates:

Some recent updates to the Buffer Law and Water Quality items coming from the state include MN DNR's announcement that the state’s water quality buffer protection map is now complete.  MN DNR officials say they made over 2,800 changes to the map from its beginning stages.  Some additional “field verifying” will still need to be done, as I can speak for our county.  They did listen to a lot of feedback from the public and government entities when looking for guidance on corrections and changes needed.
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According to the latest data from BWSR (Board of Water and Soil Resources), 74% of Minnesota counties are 60% compliant with the new buffer initiative.  Goodhue County (Southeastern MN) is reporting that 77% of their required buffers are already in place.  For those not familiar with this part of the state, this is a heavier dairy production area.  Landowners are working with various county staff, including their local SWCD to use alternatives to the standard buffer.  Things like managed grazing areas, hayable buffers, and some federal programs like CRP, are just a few of these alternatives. 

Those farmers who have the Agricultural Water Quality Certification are automatically qualified for the new buffer rules.  The Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program works with farmers to manage the risks to water quality all across their entire operation.  350 farmers and more than 200,000 acres have been enrolled under the new program.  Here are some quick figures of the Water Quality Program's benefits: 619 new BMP’s, 11.8 million pounds of less sediment going to the waterways, and 17.1 million pounds of soil kept in place from less erosion.

Governor Dayton proposed as part of his tax bill $6.7 million for financial assistance for farmers who are voluntarily installing water quality buffers.  This should alleviate the buffer installation cost by providing the landowners a $40 per acre annual payment for these water quality buffer strips that are taking tillable acres out of production.

For more information on Governor Dayton’s additional efforts related to farming and other buffer matters, here’s a link.

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

  • CD28 (Lincoln Twp.)  Monitoring water levels on the ocd28 water level 03162017pen ditch and also in a manhole structure. Picture to the right is current water levels on the open ditch on CD28.
  • CD96 (Danville Twp.)  Visual assessment on how much vegetation was damaged or missing from last year’s storms that damaged much of our new seeding on this repair project.
  • CD56 (Garden City Twp.)  Monitoring water levels and also reviewing issues with multiple beavers.
  • CD35 (Mapleton Twp.)  Monitoring the ongoing slough issues on this part of the open ditch on this system.  We will be experimenting with some different things when doing some of the slough repairs this year on this system.

Upcoming Drainage Inspections:

  • JD38 (Sterling Twp.)
  • CD56 (Garden City Twp.)
  • JD49 (Sterling Twp.)
  • CD78 (Vernon Center Twp.) partial
  • CD01 (McPherson Twp.)
  • CD83 (McPherson Twp.)
  • CD74 (Ceresco Twp.)


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. 



Ryan Hiniker
Drainage Management Specialist

madi photo