Ditch drainage leads to landowner complaints

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder presented a request to commissioners during Tuesday's board meeting for a clean-out of County Ditch 4, which extends from an outlet north of Nobles County State Aid Highway 35 t...

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This April 2012 Daily Globe file photo shows the gate blocking off water flow into a diversionary channel on the east side of Herlein-Boote Slough. Water flow from the slough now only goes out through a channel on the slough's west side. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Nobles County Public Works Director Stephen Schnieder presented a request to commissioners during Tuesday’s board meeting for a clean-out of County Ditch 4, which extends from an outlet north of Nobles County State Aid Highway 35 to the Herlein-Boote Slough.

Schnieder was contacted by a property owner who requested the more than 100-year-old ditch be cleaned out because of issues with standing water.The estimated cost for a clean-out of the entire 11,000-foot-long ditch is $20,000, Schnieder told county commissioners. The majority of those who spoke during Tuesday’s meeting weren’t concerned necessarily about the ditch clean-out and possible obstructions that may exist, but rather the amount of water flowing from the ditch outlet into private ditches and a meandering creek toward Iowa.

Stacy Gravenhof, who owns the property at the outlet near CSAH 35, said that since the DNR closed off the diversionary channel on the east side of Herlein-Boote Slough, all the water now comes through the ditch system on the slough’s west side.

“There’s just as much going around as through (the ditch),” Gravenhof said.

Wilbur Prins, who has owned property along the ditch for more than 60 years, said he’s never seen the channel as full as it’s been this year.


“Worthington wants the water. Why not send it to them?” Prins asked.

The diversion channel on the east side of the slough was closed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in early 2012 as a way to prevent invasive aquatic species -- primarily big head and silver carp -- from entering the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District.

Prins also said the ditch assessment he has to pay on his 51-acre parcel is much higher than on another 160-acre parcel in the same ditch system.

“Something is very unfair about this ditch assessment,” Prins said. “Not only that, but there are probably tile lines coming in from miles away and dumping into Herlein Slough and they aren’t being assessed.”

Schnieder said if landowners on the ditch system want to have a redetermination of benefits, they can file a petition to begin the process. While it could take up to two or three years for the redetermination to be completed, he said it would mean people who are outletting tile into the ditch will be brought into the system and assessed a fee just as existing landowners are now.

“The systems are undersized and overutilized (in Nobles County),” Schnieder said. “The board is trying to start the process of redetermination of benefits.”

Rod Bosma also spoke at the meeting, saying he was representing landowners south of the County Ditch 4 outlet.

“(The water) eventually ends up in my farm,” Bosma said. “We have been having a massive problem in the last year and a half with lowland flooding.”


It isn’t just Bosma who is having issues. He said he talked to landowners between CSAH 35 and the Iowa line about excess water.

“Everyone is having problems with this system,” Bosma said. “It seems to have backed up.”

Bosma said when the east diversion channel was closed, 100 percent of the water began flowing down County Ditch 4. He contended the water was being illegally dumped into the Kanaranzi-Little Rock Watershed and said, “It needs to stop.”

He also said if all of the water is going to continue to drain through the west ditch of the slough, then all of the levy money the Okabena-Ocheda Watershed District collects from landowners whose property drains to the slough needs to be diverted to the K-LR.

“Herleine-Boote outlet needs to be looked at by county commissioners very strongly,” Bosma said. “I see the landowners in the K-LR are paying the price for Asian carp. It’s not only unfair, I think it’s against the law.”

With the concerns raised about water flow from Herlein-Boote Slough, Schnieder said there is more to the issue that just a ditch clean-out. He recommended commissioners hire a drainage engineer to study the system and develop a report on how to proceed.

“I’ll bet, with the amount of tile that has been installed over the years, there are a lot of new tile lines entering a ditch system designed in the early 1900s,” said Commissioner Donald Linssen.

“I have nothing against cleaning out this ditch,” Bosma added. “You start uphill and you’re creating a problem downstream. I think the problem is Herlein-Boote.”


Commissioner Matt Widboom said he’d like to meet with the DNR, K-LR Watershed and Okabena-Ocheda Watershed to discuss the water coming from Herlein-Boote Slough.

The board voted to enlist an engineer to do a study of County Ditch 4 for clean-out, with a request that a meeting be arranged with all parties.

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