Summit Lake restoration moves one step closer to reality

WORTHINGTON -- A more than 260-acre parcel in the east half of Section 11, Summit Lake Township, moved one step closer to becoming a restored wetland Wednesday after Nobles County Commissioners met in special session and accepted the final design...

WORTHINGTON -- A more than 260-acre parcel in the east half of Section 11, Summit Lake Township, moved one step closer to becoming a restored wetland Wednesday after Nobles County Commissioners met in special session and accepted the final design developed by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) for the property.

The board initially met with BWSR Engineer Terry Ragan, along with Nobles County Soil and Water Conservation District Administrator John Shea, last November to discuss preliminary plans for the land once owned by the Fred Gruis Trust.

At that meeting, a neighboring landowner was concerned about potential flooding to a township road with the proposed tile breaks planned on the property. To address that concern, Kurt Deter, the county’s legal counsel on drainage issues, asked that commissioners be presented a final plan, including information on hydrology, before the project move forward.

The final plan was presented Wednesday, and Ragan, speaking via phone, explained how the project will provide relief for property owners downstream on Judicial Ditch 11B.

The project will include construction of a water control structure at the south end of the property, with a 12-inch tile installed to handle water flowing out from the basin. This tile replaces an existing 16-inch tile.


Ragan said the smaller tile will make it possible to hold a lot of the runoff in the basin and release it at a slower rate.

“What we’re able to do is remove almost 9,000 feet of county tile that won’t have to be maintained in the future,” he said of the storage basin.

While the primary basin is approximately 94 acres in size and will hold a water depth of 4 to 5 feet, there are nearly a dozen smaller depressional basins in the design.

In addition to water holding capacity, the land was seeded to prairie grasses and flowers and trees were added to the north and west sides of the parcel, according to Shea. The Nobles SWCD is the owner of the land, which is enrolled in a permanent easement with Reinvest In Minnesota (RIM), although Shea said that may change in the future.

“I would hope to see cooperation with the local DNR (Department of Natural Resources) or Pheasants Forever in helping maintain the property, or just taking it over, but that is not my decision -- that would be my board’s decision,” Shea said.

Regardless of who maintains the land in the future, one thing is for certain -- it will remain as a wetland because of the permanent RIM easement.

“There’s wildlife benefits,” Shea said of the wetland restoration. “I think there’s water quality benefits making this water go into our soil profile and not being taken out by tile. There’s going to be a small benefit to the downstream county tile.”

The county’s Wednesday approval of BWSR’s plan for the parcel sets in motion a construction plan that is hoped to be completed before winter, Shea said. The Nobles SWCD will evaluate bids during its meeting next week, and a contractor will be selected to complete the water control structure and break up the tiles on the parcel.


Board Chairman Gene Metz said he anticipates a redetermination of benefits on the ditch system once the work is completed on the wetland restoration.

Metz also asked if the wetland could go through a drawdown in late summer or early fall so that it would be able to store more water during large spring rain events. Ragan said that would need to be approved by the drainage authority, which is the county, and the owner, which is the Nobles SWCD.

“That would just be a management plan,” Ragan said.

Commissioner Matt Widboom said he was concerned about potential impact to landowners downstream in the event of successive 100-year rain events.

“We’re designed for a 100-year event, and then another 100-year event a couple of days later,” Ragan responded. “If we have a 100-year event every year, it will have no impact on this design.”

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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