8/10/2017 4:56:00 PM Implementing ditch buffer law more complex than thought
The County Board continues to assemble needed expertise in addressing issues with the county’s system of agricultural ditches. The commissioners earlier this summer approved (see Press June 29) engaging a St Cloud law firm to help in the process of “redetermination.” Last week, the Board (Commissioner Lora Walker absent) approved Bolton and Menk to lend its ditch engineering skills to review six ditches-- that may or may not be functioning the way they were meant to.
County Administrator Bruce Messelt said the county has received complaints about ditches, and said three “minor” and three “major” ditches will be looked at. In the contract with Bolton & Menk these are identified as #1,2,3,5,9 and 14. The work will require six weeks and an estimated 234 hours at approximately $120 per hour. Messelt also cautioned commissioners there may need to be an increase in ditch assessments to rebuild funds. There’s sufficient resources in all the ditch accounts combined for what’s currently been agreed to, but, “down the road we will have to look at assessments,” he concluded. The redetermination effort is a legal process the county plans to undertake in the near future; which distributes ditch expenses to benefitting properties as a line item on the property tax statements for those parcels.
The legislature’s latest mandates for ditch “buffers” to improve water quality throughout the state, calls for a strip of uncultivated land alongside drainage ditches of 16.5 feet and a strip along “public waterways” of 50 feet in width. The ditch alignments in Chisago County are unclear in some cases and updating records is key to implementing provisions of the laws and maintaining the system.