Remonstrance Provision Halts Proposed Drainage Improvements
by Anesa McGregor
Drainage District 64 was the topic of the morning for the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors during its regular meeting on Tuesday, August. 25. The Supervisors met with 20 landowners in the district in a continuation of a hearing from earlier this month.
Drainage Engineer Rick Hopper of Jacobsen-Westergard & Associates was on hand as well as Natural Resource Conservation Service Field Technician Jeremy Thilges to discuss whether or not a remonstrance provision had been met in order to bring a halt to the proposed drainage improvement project in Drainage District 64.
“The Auditor’s office and myself, independently added up the total landowners who had filed objections and the acres of land owned by the landowners, and you have met what was needed for a remonstrance. With over 50% of the landowners owning 74.5% of the acres involved a remonstrance was achieved,” Hopper told the group.
“What are their options at this point?” asked Supervisor Linus Solberg.
“At this point, the original project is done. Going forward, I can meet with individuals or smaller groups or the original petition can be refiled,” Hopper said.
“Before we go any further, we need to close the hearing and then we can discuss other options. Someone will have to file another petition on this matter if you want to pursue it after hearing other options,” Supervisor Chair Craig Merrill.
The hearing was closed by a unanimous vote of the board. A discussion then started to discuss some of the options available to the landowners.
“I looked into shortening the original project and have some informational figures for you to consider. By improving the drainage coefficient to one inch from the lake to about the center of Section 31, drainage of farmland to the Northeast will improve. The estimated cost for this improvement is $813,400. You still need to consider the farmable wetlands in this district. The landowner would need to look at mitigation for the wetlands that are improved,” said Hopper.
“What, if any, would be the underlying benefit of improving drainage in this district?” asked landowner Jeff Stillman.
“One of the major ideas behind drainage improvement in this area is to treat the water before it gets to the lake. There are a lot of nitrates and phosphorous in runoff going into the lake right as it stands, if we can keep the water in the ground longer to filter these chemicals out before reaching the lake, the better, ” Thilges replied.
“You might want to consider creating mitigating wetlands in this area. You can get about $18,000 per acre selling mitigated wetlands,” Supervisor Linus Solberg told landowners.
“This county is in need of mitigating wetlands right now,” Thilges said.
“So some of these acres could be used for mitigation?” Supervisor Keith Wirtz asked.
“Yes they can. Remember, if you have farmable wetlands that will be affected by a drainage project, you must replace those acres somewhere else by mitigation. This is something we can look into and it would generate income for these acres,” replied Hopper.
“Can you do smaller areas or does it have to be one large area? asked Stillman.
“You could do either as long as they are converted acres,” Hopper replied
“Some of these areas are next to roads and at times have water across them. Does wetland conversion affect the roads?” asked landowner Diane Nelson.
“It does and there are definitely some areas that could not be converted for that reason. There is definitely the demand for mitigation in this county,” Thilges said, as the discussion ended.