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Ditch Authority delays decision on CD11

WORTHINGTON — After spending nearly two and a half hours listening to reports from an engineer, a ditch viewer and landowners regarding a petition for improvements to County Ditch 11, Nobles County commissioners — acting as the ditch authority — voted for a recess and continuation of the meeting until next month.

Citing the need for additional information, the ditch authority unanimously approved reconvening the meeting at 10 a.m. Dec. 7 in the Farmers Room of the Nobles County Government Center. Before that date, Bolton & Menk will need to evaluate the ditch outlet and downstream impacts. Also, Nobles County Ditch Coordinator Brad Harberts will be tasked with televising several sections of the existing tile to determine condition and presence of materials that impact efficiency of water flow. Meanwhile, a spreadsheet identifying the assessment for each parcel was also requested by the ditch authority.

Tuesday’s meeting drew many of the same landowners that attended a public informational meeting last Friday. They contend County Ditch 11 (CD11) doesn’t need to be rebuilt and is working just fine.

The Penning Brothers petitioned in April 2013 for improvements to the 105-year-old, three-mile ditch system. CD11 extends from northeast of Reading southwest to open ditch 11B and impacts six sections of Summit Lake Township.

The system is working at just 10 to 20 percent, said Bolton & Menk’s Bill Helget, who presented the engineer’s report. Modern drainage systems should be able to drain one-half-inch of runoff per day.

Despite Helget’s report, landowners opposing the improvements said they haven’t had any problems with the system.

“We have not had a blow-out on any of our land in the last 40 years,” said Don Sieve, adding that after some tile was broken during the construction of a wind turbine on his land, a tiler said the century-old line “looks just like new.”

Brad Harberts said maintenance records on CD11 show work was done on the line between 1975 and 2006, mostly focused in the mid-section of the line near Nobles County 25.

“A lot of areas had blow-outs,” Harberts said. “The tile is cement and clay, and they reported they were brittle and in poor repair.”

Helget said the existing pipe near the outlet is currently cracked, and there are reports of roots within the tile.

“Years of sediment have reduced the capacity of the tile,” he said. “Even if the petition hadn’t been made for improvement, repairs to the system would be necessary.”

Among the testimony presented to the ditch authority were:

  • A letter from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources citing concerns over the cumulative effect on downstream water resources and property owners. The letter also encouraged landowners to implement cover crops and grassed waterways to improve water quality.
  • Landowner Mike Harberts said Ditch 11B is undersized to serve the acres it already receives from CD11 and other acres within the watershed.

“All land should have equal opportunity to that ditch capacity,” he said.

  • Attorney Jeffrey Flynn, representing landowners in Sections 16 and 17 of Summit Lake Township, raised claims of a conflict of interest, citing the county’s hiring of Rinke Noonan attorney Kurt Deter for counsel on ditch issues. The petitioner’s attorney, John Kolb, is from the same law firm.

Flynn also raised issues with a Dec. 30, 2013 vote of the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed District on the findings of fact for moving forward with the request for improvements without accepting any public comment or additional information.

  • Yvonne Sieve said the cost assessed to one of her family’s 80-acre parcels in Summit Lake Section 16 is more than $90,700, if repaid over a period of 20 years at 4 percent interest.

“With $3 corn and $9 beans, this project is not feasible,” she said.

  • Kolb, representing the petitioners, said the improvement is necessary from the petitioner’s view and the system is “absolutely inadequate.”

“I’m going to ask that you follow your engineer’s recommendation,” he said.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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