Natural selection: Wetlands reclaim county ditch 23
Mother knows best when it comes to the literal law of the land. A public hearing regarding nature's reclamation of wetlands in County Ditch 23 opened Tuesday's Douglas County Commissioners' meeting.
Petitioner Jeanne Adams requested abandonment of the upper portion of Branch 17 and all of Branch 18 along with removal of assessed areas of County Ditch 23. The area is south of Blue Jay Way in Ida Township.
The original drainage tile was installed in 1923, according to Douglas County Drainage and Agriculture Inspector Tom Anderson. The wetlands were previously drained and had reasserted themselves back onto the landscape. Aerial photos show the tile has not been functioning properly in the branches since 1972.
"The tile, as I indicated, has not been functioning for a significant period of time," Anderson said.
The Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act prohibits the repair of a legal drainage system that impacts certain drain types that have been in existence for more than 25 years. Adams' request is protected under the act.
Ida Township Road acts as a dam and prevents drainage from south to north. A survey conducted in December 2012 confirmed that the southern water levels were seven feet below the grade of the road. Anderson said the landowner north of Blue Jay Way has requested repair of the tile.
"We look back to 1972 and [water levels] haven't overrun the road in that time," Commissioner Jerry Johnson said. He added that the city of Garfield had a similar issue that eventually resulted in the county needing to fix an overflow problem. "You can't just block off the tile and say it's never going to come out," Johnson said. "It should stay in the tile system."
Dan Diedrich, Ida Township Board supervisor, said the concern of the board is if the water level raises and affects the integrity of the road. He asked that the county provide some assurance that if that were to happen, the county would step up and put in a culvert. Johnson suggested that tile would be simpler than a culvert and would remove burden from the township.
"As far as the township is concerned, we have no objections to leaving that tile plugged and putting a shallower [tile] on the north side of the road," Diedrich said.
Dian Lopez, president of the Ida Lake Association, expressed concern that the current wetlands aren't working as planned. The association has noted wetland levels have gone down from 21 feet to seven feet over the years.
"All this water just goes through the ditch and right into the lake," Lopez said. "Now I'm hearing about new tile that will drain more into the lake."
Anderson explained that the tile is not new; it just hasn't been functioning at capacity and will not be draining more. Tiles north of Blue Jay Way will be repaired to restore drainage that was lost.
Anderson said there are other wetlands further up stream. Approximately 150 total acres will drain into the wetland south of Blue Jay Way.
Johnson voted no on a motion to approve repair of tile north of Blue Jay Way to include an overflow structure to the south side of the township road. A unanimous decision was made to repair a portion of Branch 17 north of Blue Jay Way to County Road 82 at a grade that would provide overflow outlet to the wetlands south of Blue Jay Way.
"We're just playing on something nature fixed," Commissioner Jim Stratton said.
DOWN THE ROAD
Assistant Public Works Director Scott Green presented commissioners with bids for approval on the Kensington Runestone Park entrance, liquid calcium chloride treatments and highway striping.
Central Specialities Inc. of Alexandria was awarded a contract for work to be done on the new Kensington Runestone Park entrance. Central Specialties bid $142,835 on the project that was estimated at $233,074. Seven bids were submitted: Mark Lee Excavating, Inc. ($151,296), Koehl Excavating ($156,866), RL Larson Excavating, Inc. ($158,767), Sellin Brothers, Inc. ($169,207), Seph Construction ($202,969) and Riley Bros. Construction, Inc. ($205,879).
EnViro Tech Services, Inc. of Savage will provide liquid calcium chloride treatments to county roads for $185,600. Tri-City Paving of Little Falls bid $10,000 higher. The engineer's estimate was $196,000.
Highway striping will be done by AAA Striping out of St. Michael. AAA Striping bid $199,503, more than $6,297 less than the $205,800 estimate. Traffic Marking Service of Maple Lake bid $205,045 and Swanston Equipment Companies of Fargo submitted a bid over the estimate, $231,635.
Commissioners also approved use of County Roads 22 and 82 Northwest and Lake Cowdry Road Northwest for the fourth annual Lakes Area Endurance runs on May 10 and May 11 in Alexandria. A one-mile family fun run and potato dinner is planned for May 10. A quarter-marathon, half-marathon and half-marathon 4X relay are scheduled for May 11. Proceeds from the events go to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Camp scholarships for students.
County Auditor/Treasurer Char Rosenow introduced the Wholesale Lockbox service. Rosenow said the county could use the service during times of high mail volume to free up staff time. If the county begins using Lockbox from Wells Fargo, more than $5,000 in service fees could be saved as well.
"That way the money would be immediately in the bank," Rosenow explained. "[Wells Fargo] has a big data entry department."
If the service proves to be successful, Douglas County residents may be sending their payments directly to a post office box in St. Paul in the future.
Commissioners accepted $2,750 in donations and a two-year $2,500 remote electronic alcohol monitoring program grant for the Douglas County Sheriff's Office. A $2,500 donation was made by the Alexandria Lions Club for purchasing a squad car defibrillator. The Golden K Kiwanis club contributed $250 to support the DARE program.
The Minnesota Department of Corrections has granted $2,500 for fiscal year 2014 and $2,500 for fiscal year 2015 to the sheriff's office for remote electronic alcohol monitoring services. Sheriff Troy Wolbersen explained that people who qualify for a public defender would likely be eligible for funds.
"Typically what we would do is pay the set-up fee and approximately two weeks of monitoring," Wolbersen said. "Anything additional to that, that person is responsible for the expenses."
Offenders who are required to submit breath samples, like repeat DWI arrestees, are monitored by Midwest Surveillance. If a positive test result comes back to the company, the sheriff's office is notified.
Commissioners also supported the Douglas Area Trails Association (DATA) grant application and accepted donations to the public health department at Tuesday's meeting. The DATA snowmobile grant-in-aid performance-based grant within the Minnesota Trail Assistance Program for fiscal year 2014 binds Douglas County, as sponsor, to specific responsibilities. The county will need to certify three benchmarks: trail completion, grooming certification and trail closure/application submission. The DATA trail stretches 368 miles. If the state allows, the 0.7 mile YMCA trail will be added. The maintenance rate per mile will remain at $382.
The Douglas County Public Health department received $4,484 in March donations. The Senior Companion program received $200, Safe Communities was allocated $250 and the remaining $4,034 went to hospice.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.