Monthly Archives: February 2017

BRRWD Discusses Project Benefits

At their meeting held on 02/27/17 in Barnesville, the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD) met with Jeff Lewis, Executive Director, Red River Basin Commission (RRBC), and Chuck Fritz, Director, International Water Institute, to discuss the Mediation Agreement/ flood damage reduction (fdr) projects. The BRRWD is currently considering three projects west of Barnesville including Stony Creek, Barnesville Township, and the South Branch of the Buffalo River in Wilkin County. All three have proposed flood retention areas. This topic came up at the last meeting, when the Board discussed possible methods to compensate landowners for easements regarding fdr projects. One of the Basin’s goals has been the RRBC’s Long-Term Flood Solutions (LTFS). Modeling for that study was based on the 1997 spring flood. Clay County BRRWD Manager Jay Leitch said that many of the communities along the Red River now have flood protection which they did not have in 1997. As a part of the LTFS, the RRBC has peak-flow and run-off volume reduction goals to reduce Red River main-stem flooding by 20%. The study utilized a Mike-11 flood routing model of the 1997 flood. These goals were determined by manually modifying the 1997 spring flood inflow hydrographs with the Red River main-stem model. Tributary goals were also summarized in the RRBC’s LTFS basin wide flow reduction strategy report. The BRRWD goals were established to be 35% peak-flow reduction and a 17% overall volume reduction. The BRRWD also contains portions of ungauged areas of Otter Tail and Fargo as defined in the LTFS. The assigned reductions for these areas were 13% peak-flow reduction and 13% volume reduction. A 1984 Study titled “Water Resources Engineering/Planning Program for the Red River of the North Basin in Minnesota” which was done for the Red River Watershed Management Board (RRWMB) by McCombs/Knutson Associates, Inc., determined a value of $245 per acre-foot of flood volume removed from the window of the 100-year flood at Emerson on the Canadian border. Someone commented that this study is already over 30 years old.

Discussion took place that fdr projects can also provide other benefits. Lewis thought that Manston Slough was a good example, with wetland restoration, habitat, wildlife, groundwater recharge, and water quality benefits. Lewis talked about some of RRBC’s work on the North Ottawa Project in the Bois de Sioux Watershed District. They have shown that the site has the ability to clean up the water before discharging it. Bruce Albright, BRRWD Administrator, said that Board Managers should field review the Stony Creek project area along Interstate 94 (I-94). Right now, we have water breaking out of the creek channel, flooding lands on the northeast side of I-94. The water is going to Hay Creek and causing gullies and erosion on the farmland. Southwest of I-94, there are four or five sections that are currently underwater and several roads are flooded. These problems are unique, because we do not have a flooding threat at the present time. The problems are being caused by an inadequate channel, Clay County Ditch (C.D.) No. 31, which was installed in the early 1900s to replace Stony Creek. The proposed project would restore the Stony Creek channel and provide for an impoundment site capable of holding approximately 7,000 acre-feet of water. One of the impoundment site landowners, Chuck Anderson, was also present at the meeting. He said the landowners are interested in finding out what the BRRWD has to offer.

In conclusion, the agency representatives and the Board of Managers felt that maybe proposed projects have to look at problem areas within the District and that the BRRWD does its own benefit cost analysis for each particular project. This could make it hard to compete for state and federal funding, when sometimes it difficult to compare projects that may have different benefits. In the end, Manager Leitch said that he would consult with Steven J. Taff, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, regarding his thoughts about easement values. Lewis distributed some information regarding water quality for the Red River at the International Boundary. Very shortly, we are going to hear about new goals that we will set phosphorus levels at this location to 0.15 mg/L and nitrogen concentrations at 1.2 mg/L. He also distributed a report titled “North Ottawa Nutrient Capture and Biomass Harvesting”. He also reviewed an article that appeared in the Star Tribune, written by Dick Osgood of Duluth, and the co-founder of the Lake Advocates, about the need for leaders to seriously and realistically look at new approaches for safe and clean water. Osgood advocates an approach that would collect and treat polluted run-off at “the end of the pipe” on larger scale projects such as North Ottawa or the proposed Stony Creek Project. Osgood feels we should consider a similar approach for agricultural run-off as urban run-off: collect it, treat it, and discharge it clean.

Other business included:           

  • Reviewed the BRRWD’s financial status. In the past two weeks, we have received $82,682.86. Cash on hand totals $2,154,491.85.

  • Approved a permit to Chad Nelson to install a 12″ diameter tile line in the NW1/4, Section 34, Norwegian Grove Township, Otter Tail County. The application had been tabled pending notification to the downstream landowner, which has now occurred.

  • Agreed to sign an Operation & Maintenance agreement with the City of Moorhead pertaining to Project No. 71, 50th AVE S Flood Control. The agreement defines the City and BRRWD responsibilities. If work is done by the City, they will bill the BRRWD who will assess the costs against the project’s benefitting area.

  • Agreed to help fund a clean water diversion structure for Hough Farms in Section 25, Humboldt Township, Clay County. The water from the area drains directly into Whisky Creek. The project will divert overland water from flowing through their yard and buildings. The project will also qualify for state and federal funding. The BRRWD’s cost share would provide the additional funding, capped at 75% of the project costs. 

  • Noting that 19th Joint Annual Conference of the RRWMB and the Red River Flood Damage Reduction Work Group will be held on March 22-23, 2017, at the Courtyard by Marriott, Moorhead. The event is open to the public. Workshops will be held the morning of March 22, including a drainage seminar and orientation for Watershed District Managers and Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors. 

  • Albright presented an updated set of the amended Rules. The Rules contain 12 sections, including a section on buffer law implementation/enforcement and the new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) regulations for an area in and around the City of Moorhead. Albright asked that the Managers review the Rules. Hopefully, at the next meeting, they can be submitted to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources for advisory comment. The Rules also need to be submitted to all “public transportation authority’s having jurisdiction within the Watershed District”. Albright felt that would mean sending them to all of the Townships, Counties, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Notice of a hearing must also be published in a legal newspaper within each County of the Watershed. After the hearing, the Board can adopt the amended Rules and a copy must be filed with each County Recorder. 

  • Noting that a meeting has been scheduled for Thursday, March 16, 2017, at 8:30 AM in the Watershed office to meet with landowners along Wilkin C.D. No. 13-Lateral. Last fall, it was noted that this entire system needs repair, and the BRRWD intends to begin that work this spring when conditions permit.

  • Discussed reservations for the upcoming Minnesota Association of Watershed District’s Legislative Reception/Breakfast, to be held in St. Paul on March 29-30, 2017. Three Managers and Administrator Albright plan to attend. 

  • Noting that the Annual Meeting with the Advisory Committee will be held on Friday, March 31, 2017, beginning at 2:00 PM in the Watershed office.

  • Noting that the City of Comstock has requested a meeting with the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority to discuss protection, if the upstream storage area is constructed. Previous Army Corps of Engineers plans for Comstock included a ring-dike levee allowing for some additional areas for future expansion. A meeting will be held on March 15, beginning at 11:00 AM in the Clay County Highway Department, Moorhead. 

  • Approved a motion to purchase the document management system called M-Files through MARCO located in Fargo, ND. Houston Engineering, Inc. will handle the hardware updates needed to install the software, including a second processor to the server. Their estimated costs are $5,200. Approval also included the purchase of a 60-page per minute, bottom-feed, USB scanner at $2,728.56. M-Files is used by the Wild Rice Watershed District, in Ada, MN. The program should allow for quick access to information and will include a public portal for access to certain BRRWD scanned documents. 

  • Approved signing of a transaction form to deposit wetland credits into the Minnesota Wetland Bank for the Elkton Wetland Banking Project developed by the BRRWD. The total anticipated credits per the approved bank plan is 88.7 acres. At the present time, the BRRWD qualifies for 35.48 acres. Filing of the form includes a deposit fee of $1,000.

  • Approved payment of bills totaling $35,982.32. 

  • Noting that Representatives Marquardt, Lien, and Nornes have introduced House File No. 1582 relating to capital investment appropriating money for flood hazard mitigation projects in the BRRWD. The appropriation is for $16.19 million. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Minnesota Senate.

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next meeting on Monday, March 13, 2017, at 7:00 PM in the BRRWD Office, located at 1303 4th AVE NE, Barnesville, MN. All meetings are open to the public. For more information about the BRRWD, please visit our website at www.brrwd.org.

BRRWD Discusses Easement Values

The Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), discussed easement values at their meeting held in Barnesville on February 13, 2017. Bruce E. Albright, Administrator, compiled a list of ways the BRRWD can acquire property needed for flood damage reduction (fdr) and natural resources enhancement (nre) projects. For the past several years, the BRRWD has been considering projects west of Barnesville, including Stony Creek, Barnesville Township, and the South Branch of the Buffalo River in Wilkin County. These projects are also being reviewed by the BRRWD’s Mediation Project Team (PT). The analysis stated that there are three ways for the BRRWD to acquire the necessary property: 1) Purchase the land directly (it may not be for sale); 2) Transfer the land from agricultural production to some type of conservation acreage; or 3) Acquire an easement that would allow the landowners to continue to farm the property.

New Manager Jay Leitch, Clay County, is currently working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on their Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Work includes an economic analysis of fdr projects in the Red River Valley. This issue was also studied by the Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) following the 1997 spring flood. Their report titled “Long Term Flood Solutions” is dated September 2011. In that study they used a 20% reduction model. As pointed out by Manager Leitch, that study used the 1997 spring flood for comparison. Many projects have been completed since that time, which changes the modeling and the economic benefits of fdr projects. For example, will there still be a need for local fdr sites now that projects in Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, Wahpeton, and Breckenridge have been completed, and if the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Project were ever completed. Some other benefits of developing local fdr projects, include water quality enhancement, wildlife habitat, recreation areas, etc. The Manston Slough Restoration Project is a good example of a multi-purpose project. The BRRWD approved a motion asking the RRBC to take a second look at their long-term flood solutions regarding the hydrologic efficacy and the economic sense of the proposed 20% reduction. Albright said he would contact Jeff Lewis, Executive Director, RRBC, in this regard. He expected that Lewis may want to attend an upcoming BRRWD meeting.

Other business included:

  • Reviewed the BRRWD’s financial status. Since January 1, the BRRWD has received income totaling $246,889.77. Cash on hand totals $2,299,403.72.

  • Approved Permit No. 17-001 to the Wilkin County Highway Department for the resurfacing of County State Aid Highway No. 52 from Rothsay to the Clay-Wilkin County line south of Barnesville. The project will include some minor culvert repairs.

  • Discussion regarding an outlet for a tiling project completed last fall in Section 28, Mitchell Township, Wilkin County. In 2012, when the permit was approved for this work, the outlet was to drain north and west towards Wolverton Creek. The project was installed in the fall of 2016 and the outlet was brought directly west, where the water needs to drain south towards the Red River of the North. Landowners along the new water path expressed concerns regarding adequacy of the outlet. The Managers authorized Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) to conduct a survey to see what it would take to drain the water north. The present outlet location is along the east side of 180th AVE. They survey work was started, but then halted due to ice and snow in the ditches. Once conditions allow, the survey will be completed. Albright felt the BRRWD should schedule an informational meeting when the survey is completed with all of the affected landowners (both north and south routes) to discuss possible options.

  • Discussed a request from Clay County to schedule a meeting to discuss buffer enforcement procedures and administrative penalty order plans regarding the 2015 Buffer Law. The decision needs to be made by March 31, 2017, notifying the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources whether or not the County and/or the BRRWD will accept that jurisdiction. Albright has asked HEI create a map showing the number of miles of legal ditch systems, protected waters, and protected wetlands within each County within the BRRWD so that we can look at possible allocations of the enforcement on a percentage basis. Albright will work with the County Administrator to set up a meeting. 

  • Noting that the BRRWD has a hearing on March 10, 2017, before Judge Steven Cahill regarding a summary judgement for dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the BRRWD regarding drainage matters in and around the Kragnes area. A proposed project for that area was dismissed. 

  • Noting that the BRRWD will schedule a meeting with landowners along Project No. 21, Wilkin County Ditch (C.D.) No. 13-Lateral. Last fall, it was determined that the ditch requires a complete repair. The meeting will talk about when that work will begin and ask landowners for permission to access the ditch system on their property so that the repairs can be done in a timely manner. 

  • Received a proposal from HEI regarding establishment of a water management district (wmd) for the Wolverton Creek Restoration Project. The opinion of probable cost for the project is $10.4 million. It is hoped that over 50% of the estimated project costs will come from federal, state, and other outside funding sources. Local funding cost share for the project could come through the wmd process. The BRRWD will be required to hold a hearing to start this as a project and to adopt the wmd. The modified, combined runoff and erosion methods were used to calculate the fees. Land use was consolidated into four use categories: 1) Production agriculture, 2) Developed areas, 3) Farmsteads, and 4) Natural areas (grassland, pasture, gravel operations, etc.) The BRRWD is at Step 6 of the wmd process, where they need to hold the required hearing to initiate the storm water utility charges. It is anticipated that the wmd could raise about a $100,000 annually to help offset project costs.

  • Noting that the next meeting of the BRRWD’s Mediation PT has been scheduled for Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 1:30 PM in the Watershed Office. Active project discussions include Stony Creek, Barnesville Township, and the South Branch of the Buffalo River in Wilkin County. 

  • Agreed to work with the Becker Soil and Water Conservation District and NRCS regarding submittal of Environmental Protection Agency 319 Grant for work in the Buffalo River Watershed. The application is due March 10, 2017. 

  • Discussed options to repair the Clay C.D. No. 3 outlet located in Section 8, Moland Township. The first alternative is to recreate a portion of the ditch with 4:1 side slopes and install two rock drop structures and fill the ditch bottom to the proposed grade. The estimate of probable cost is $85,000 to $95,000 for this alternative. A geotechnical review has not been completed of the erosion areas. Erik S. Jones, Engineer, HEI, will bring a recommendation for the Board’s review at the next meeting.

  • Approved a motion requesting the Minnesota’s Association of Watershed Districts to hold a special meeting to review their bylaws in conjunction with their Summer Tour, to be held on June 21-23, 2017. The bylaw changes are anticipated as the organization looks to hire both a new Administrator and a lobbyist.

  • Approved payment of bills totaling $227,594.73.

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next meeting on Monday, February 27, 2017, at 7:00 PM in the BRRWD Office, located at 1303 4th AVE NE, Barnesville, MN. All meetings are open to the public. For more information about the BRRWD, please visit our website at www.brrwd.org.