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Harberts to oversee county’s drainage, ditch systems

WORTHINGTON -- When Nobles County commissioners decided to create a new position to deal with drainage issues ranging from county tile and ditch systems, it seemingly took them longer to decide on a job title than to fill it.

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Brad Harberts began his new duties as drainage systems coordinator for Nobles County March 6. He will oversee all work dealing with ditches and drainage issues. (Julie Buntjer / Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - When Nobles County commissioners decided to create a new position to deal with drainage issues ranging from county tile and ditch systems, it seemingly took them longer to decide on a job title than to fill it.

Brad Harberts is a familiar face to many in the agriculture sector locally. He grew up near Rushmore, resides near Reading and has worked in various levels of agriculture-related government jobs for more than 30 years.

Harberts began his new role as Nobles County’s drainage system coordinator March 6. In his first two weeks of work, he’s delved into the county’s tile locator maps - some dating back more than a century - with plans to bring them up to date through advanced technology and new tile locating equipment.

“A lot of the systems are 1905 to 1920-something,” Harberts said, adding that while there are already maintenance issues on some of the lines, he anticipates a lot more in the future. The tile lines were built during the days when landowners farmed with horses. Now, they’re driving large combines that hold up to 400 bushels of corn over shallow lines that buckle and break under the weight.

The county recently invested in tile locator equipment that will allow Harberts to map the exact location of county tile up to 600 feet at a time. The information will then be entered into a global positioning system so that when lines break in the future, maintenance crews will better be able to pinpoint the location.

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As the tile lines are mapped digitally, Harberts said he is also setting up a system in which all tile line repairs moving forward will be logged so the county has accurate records.

Once the record system and tile locator work is up-to-date, Harberts will then focus on his other many duties, from coordinating petitions for redetermination of benefits on county and judicial ditch systems to inspecting county tiles, responding to reports of tile intake problems or blow-outs and working with Nobles County Public Works on maintenance of the ditch system.

Once the county gets direction from the state on the new water quality buffer law, Harberts will also be the one to handle enforcement.

“I’ve already had some neighbors turning in neighbors where there’s no filter or grass up against the ditch,” he said.

Harberts began his career in Nobles County in 1985 with the Soil and Water Conservation District doing tree plantings, establishing windbreaks and working in layout and design of terraces and waterways. Four years later, he moved to the federal Soil Conservation Service, which ultimately was renamed the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“I was a civil engineering technician, dealing mainly with erosion,” Harberts said, noting his primary work was in design and construction of terraces, waterways and diversions.

When his work with the NRCS became more laden with paperwork with less time spent fixing problems outdoors, he decided it was time for a career change.

“I like to go out and cure problems and see stuff get fixed - eliminate erosion, deal with landowner problems and come to some solution,” he said.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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