Water woes – the ditch 9 debate in Douglas CountyResidents voiced their high water frustrations in a crowded room at the Douglas County commissioners’ board meeting Tuesday.
By: Wendy Wilson, Alexandria Echo Press
Residents voiced their high water frustrations in a crowded room at the Douglas County commissioners’ board meeting Tuesday.
The fireworks began after Public Works Director Dave Robley requested making repairs on County Ditch 9 near Lakes Mary and Mill.
“I have to take a negative view on this project,” Commissioner Paul Anderson said. “We cannot handle any more water. The culverts up there are full, so I would move that we deny the request to have Ditch 9 cleaned at the present time.”
Robley and Tom Anderson, Drainage and Ag Inspector, noted the high channel waters and explained trees and debris needed to be removed as part of maintenance of the ditch.
“My motion now would deny any removal from Ditch 9 at the present time,” Commissioner Anderson said.
Lake Mary resident Ron Meyers defended the clean-up of Ditch 9. Meyers is a majority owner of Eden Acres Estates on Lake Mary.
Meyers said there were five major inlets into Lake Mary, but only one outlet. Ditch 9 was “almost totally plugged with trees” and covered with “green scum,” according to Meyers.
“This is a disaster for Lake Mary,” he told the commissioners. “Not just for the people who live on it, but for everybody who uses it and for all the farmers around it whose land is flooded.”
Meyers requested that Ditch 9 be cleaned immediately.
“I don’t want this to become a screaming match,” he said. “Pointing fingers will not solve the problem.”
“You are not unique,” he said. “We have got the same situation.”
Robley suggested a compromise in removing the restrictions. But he did not believe it was wise to do a complete clean-up now due to the high water in the other lakes.
Several Douglas County residents vehemently discussed rising lakes levels and the associated damage.
“You are not the only one here that is suffering,” said Lake Darling resident Jim Hultman. “The idea of passing the buck downstream is unthinkable.”
Another Lake Mary resident said, “I think we just need to be supportive of everyone.”
The commissioners denied the request. Commissioner Dan Olson abstained from the vote.
“The ditches must be cleaned to maintain state law,” Meyers said.
After the vote, Meyers said to the Echo Press his biggest concern was the health of all of the lakes.
“It is not about me,” he said. “It is about the lake.”
He worried the lakes would die if soil entering them through erosion caused weeds and algae to take over.
“I think it is sad when the county commissioners have their minds made up before [any discussion],” he said.
Eden Acres Estates had lost 20 feet of black dirt and grass. The previously large beach on the property is now just a small patch of sand and many mobile homes and trees are completely surrounded by green, algae-covered water.
“This damage is secondary,” he said as he looked at a 50-year-old tree that had tipped over in the water.
“If the county would keep the ditches clean, the lakes would not be this high,” he said.
He addressed the other lake residents’ concerns.
“Nobody should flood out anybody else,” he agreed.
Another man at the board meeting had suggested cleaning the ditches from the bottom and working up the chain. Meyers agreed with the idea.
“The ditches should start flowing the day we are getting rain,” he said.
He recommended all of the county ditches undergo cleaning and maintenance regularly to prevent future flooding.
“I would like to see a resident from every lake and from every ditch go in [to advocate for cleaning all of the ditches],” he said. “We are all in this together.”
Commissioner Bev Bales spoke with the Echo Press and explained the denial.
“We are not stopping cleaning or the general maintenance on ditches,” she said. “Minnesota law says we must keep them clean.”
But she said there is no time requirement in place. The water levels would be monitored.
“We are saying we will do it as soon as it is feasible… without affecting other people down the line.”