Monthly Archives: January 2018

BRRWD Sets Buffer Values

At their meeting held on Monday, January 22, 2018, at 7:00 PM in Barnesville, the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), set the payment rates for the 2015 Buffer Law right-of-way (R/W) process on legal drainage systems. The Board decided to follow the same method they used to establish easement values for the Wilkin County ditch repairs last year, which were based on the County’s assessed land values. For any land above the crown of the ditch slope, the BRRWD will use the full county assessed value as the payment rate, and for land between the crown of the ditch and the current existing ditch R/W, the easement value will be 10% of the assessed value. The BRRWD is required to have their ditch systems compliant with the Buffer Law by 11/01/18. Hearings will be held for approximately 90 ditch systems, which will include the preparation of Viewers’ Reports, hearing notices sent to all affected landowners, and payment for all easement acquisitions.

Other business included:

  • Reviewed the BRRWD’s financial status. Cash on hand is $2,093,845.94. Income since the 1/08/18 meeting was $74,742.24, primarily from Becker ($3,651.91) and Wilkin ($12,206.57) Counties for 2017 delinquent property/ditch taxes, the Red River Watershed Management Board for Mediation Project Team expenses ($8,709.21), and Wilkin County for 2015 Buffer Initiative Aid ($33,283) and County Ditch No. 3 seeding/mulching reimbursement ($16,891.55). Total 2018 income to date is $74,968.25. The Board approved the payment of bills totaling $30,178.42.

  • Discussed funding options for the Wolverton Creek Restoration Phase 1 easement acquisitions. The Board is considering adopting the Reinvest In Minnesota payment rates, instead of conducting a formal appraisal process on each parcel. The BRRWD will pay an initial temporary easement fee ($250/acre/construction year) and follow up at the end of construction with the final easement payments, so that project construction won’t be delayed this spring. The easement acquisition process requires that the BRRWD follow a sequence of steps to maximize potential funding through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). Craig Lingen, Resource Specialist, Wilkin Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), will provide Erik S. Jones, Engineer, Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI), with data that shows where potential CREP easements and BRRWD easements could be located.

  • Reviewed the status of Project No. 78, Clay/Wilkin Judicial Ditch (J.D.) No. 1 Diversion. A meeting was held with the petitioners on 1/17/18 to discuss possible alternatives to their petition. After reviewing the Engineer’s preliminary analysis, the petitioners had concerns regarding project costs, potential benefits, and the depth of the diversion ditch. Jones proposed an alternative outlet improvement for about three miles of J.D. No. 1 upstream of Wolverton Creek instead of a diversion ditch. The existing culverts could be lowered to get more separation between the field level and the ditch bottom. This would create better drainage at the outlet and improve drainage at the county line, allowing the road culverts to be fully utilized during a 50-year event. On the outlet end (west), the ditch bottom would drop about 3.5′ with a continuous 0.4% grade upstream. Water from J.D. No. 1 will enter Wolverton Creek ahead of the water from the upstream watershed. Jones noted that while the project cost is still about $1.8 million, the project benefits are greater. The petitioners will file a revised petition.

  • Authorized Board signature of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) Drainage Records Modernization Grant agreement. The grant ($50,000) will be used to upload our ditch systems records to an online system to make them more accessible.

  • Noted that the factsheet for the 220th ST ditch investigation has been prepared and will be forwarded to State Senator Torrey Westrom and Representative Jeff Backer this week. When landowner Tom Paulson met with the Legislators regarding the proposed project, they indicated that they might be able to find some State funding for the project and asked for more information. The Board authorized HEI to prepare to prepare the factsheet at their 12/11/17 meeting.

  • Received a report from the Assistant Administrator Hiring Committee regarding their 1/17/18 meeting. A meeting has been scheduled with HEI President Jeff LeDoux on 2/2/18 to discuss the current staffing contract.

  • Noted that BWSR requires that the BRRWD revise their Rules to include more enforcement options for bufferstrip noncompliance. Jones added Administrative Penalty Order language to the draft Rules to make it possible for the BRRWD to add the cost of buffer reestablishment to a violator’s property taxes.

  • Authorized the signature of the One Watershed, One Plan Memorandum of Agreement (MOA). The MOA is being circulated among the four Counties and SWCDs for review and signature. The goal is to have the MOA signed by the end of February, so that it can be submitted to BWSR, who will then release funds to start the planning process.

  • The Board watched two training videos that BWSR provided regarding Minnesota Data Practices and Open Meeting Law. The videos are designed to provide Watershed Boards with free training on these topics to meet the Level II Performance Review and Assistance Program performance standard for “Board Training”.

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next regular meeting on Monday, February 12, 2018, 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 Holds Annual Meeting

On January 8, 2018, the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), held their annual meeting. The meeting included election of the 2018 officers: Jay A. Leitch, Chair, Clay County; Peter V. Fjestad, Vice Chair, Otter Tail County; Mark T. Anderson, Treasurer, Clay County; John E. Hanson, Secretary, Becker County; Gerald L. Van Amburg, Manager, Clay County; Troy E. Larson, Manager, Wilkin County; and Catherine L. Affield, Manager, Wilkin County. The Board reappointed Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) as their 2018 consulting engineer. The office staff will remain the same, including Bruce E. Albright (Administrator), Julie Jerger (senior full-time administrative assistant), Kathy Fenger (full-time administrative assistant), and Danielle Scheffler (part-time administrative assistant). Vogel Law Firm was hired to represent the BRRWD regarding legal services. Harold J. Rotunda, Certified Public Accountant, was hired to do the 2017 audit. Midwest Bank was designated as the BRRWD’s prime fiduciary. Wells Fargo Bank in Barnesville will also be used, as well as any other banks within the District, as the need arises. The Board appointed Managers Leitch, Affield, and Van Amburg to serve on a committee to research options for the hiring of an Assistant BRRWD Administrator.

Following a catered supper at 5:30 PM, the Board met with Dr. Steven J. Taff, Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Applied Economics, University of Minnesota, to review the results of his easement value study. Dr. Taff was hired as a consultant to developed a method for the BRRWD to determine the value of easements on flood damage reduction and natural resource enhancement projects, primarily for cropland. Dr. Taff presented a synopsis of his study, which proposes a procedure for the BRRWD to determine a base value that can be used to initiate landowner easement negotiations using a spreadsheet calculation tool.

Other business included:

  • Approved the 12/31/17 annual financial reports, including the project account balance sheet, administrative disbursements, summary of income, and the accounts receivable report. Total 2017 income was $3,49,955.07 and administrative expenses totaled $494,357.89. The 2017 Accounts Receivable totals $2,891,144, including delinquent taxes and ongoing grant agreements. Cash on hand at the end of the year was $2,183,743.51. The office also prepared a worksheet showing the individual account financial activities for 2017 and then allocated an administrative fee (1%) based on the amount of the expenses for each account. After average account balances for the year are calculated, accounts with a negative average are charged interest at the rate of 3.375% (Midwest Bank loan rate), and accounts with positive balances were allocated interest, including the 2017 bank account interest income ($7,974.50). The 2017 year-end transfers from the Minnesota Statutes Annotated 103D.905, Subd. 3, account ($603,661.50) were completed for several programs/projects that do not have assessment areas. A final 12/31/17 balance sheet was prepared, reflecting the interest allocation/account transfers. Albright noted that the BRRWD office building construction loan was paid off in 2017. The Board also approved the current 1/08/18 financial reports. Income since 1/01/18 was $226.01 from HEI for office rent ($225) and Otter Tail County for delinquent 2017 property taxes ($1.01). Cash on hand is $2,183,969.52, and 2018 Accounts Receivable totals $5,933.672. The Board approved the payment of bills totaling $164,865.82. 

  • Approved permits to the Moorhead Park Department for a bike bridge across the Clay County Ditch (C.D.) No. 41 outlet to provide access to M. B. Johnson Park in the SE¼, Section 29, Oakport Township, and the Clay County Highway Department for the reconstruction of County State Aid Highway No. 19 from Trunk Highway No. 10 to 12th ST S, crossing Clay C.D. No. 68, through the City of Glyndon with curb and gutter installation, subject to the reestablishment of the grass buffer along the ditch system. 

  • Noted that a meeting is scheduled on 1/10/18 with the Wilkin Soil and Water Conservation District in Breckenridge to review the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program January 8, 2018 to determine potential BRRWD easement allotments for Project No. 79, Wolverton Creek Restoration. The Board approved a rate of $250/acre/construction year for the Phase 1 temporary cropland construction easement acquisitions. A Memorandum of Agreement for project maintenance will be developed with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and the Wilkin Farm Service Agency. 

  • Noted that a meeting has been scheduled for 1/11/18 at 8:00 AM in the BRRWD office to consider a possible improvement for the Clay/Wilkin Judicial Ditch No. 1 outlet in Clay County instead of the diversion option to take upstream flows west to Wolverton Creek, which might yield a more cost-effective project. Jones has several alternatives for the petitioners to consider. 

  • Approved the renewal of the 2018 temporary storage lease ($3,000) with Carl Pierce for the spoil disposal site on his property, associated with Project No. 49, Oakport Flood Mitigation.

  • Noted that the BRRWD was awarded a BWSR 2018 Drainage Records Modernization grant ($50,000) to be used to upload our ditch systems records to an online system to make the information more accessible. HEI has developed a procedure to streamline the process. Albright expects BWSR will forward the grant contract for the Board’s review and signature in the next few weeks.

  • Completed the annual BWSR Level 1 Performance Review and Assistance Program check list. 

  • Noted that a conference call with BWSR is scheduled on 1/11/18 at 10:00 AM to formalize a funding plan for the Upper South Branch of the Buffalo River channel restoration project. 

  • Discussed questions from a landowner about his assessments for Wilkin C.D. Nos. 42 and 43. Their land is enrolled in Reinvest In Minnesota and is not in crop production. Albright explained that when the benefits were redetermined in 1988, their land was in the benefit area for both ditch systems at a combined assessment of $10/acre for both systems ($5 each). At this point, it wouldn’t be feasible to hold a redetermination for just their property. The Board could consider a redetermination of benefits for these ditch systems in the future as area drainage patterns have changed after the BRRWD constructed Project No. 31, Deerhorn Creek Levees, in 1999. A redetermination proceeding could also establish a benefit area for Project No. 31, which doesn’t currently have one. 

  • Approved upgrading the office postage meter with the latest technology for a 63-month lease at $43/month. Metered postage costs less than regular postage stamps. 

  • Noted that the Red River Basin Commission is holding their 35th Annual Land & Water International Summit Conference on January 23-25, 2018, at the Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Albright and Managers Hanson and Fjestad plan to attend.

  • Received notification that Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has approved the Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies (WRAPS) for the Upper Red River Study and the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) has been forwarded to the Environmental Protection Agency for review and approval. The BRRWD should be eligible district-wide for 319 BWSR Grant funds this year now that the WRAPS and TMDL have finally been completed 

  • Discussed the 2015 Buffer Law process the BRRWD will need to follow to have our ditch systems compliant by the 11/01/18 deadline. The BRRWD will to hold hearings for approximately 90 ditch systems, which will include the preparation of Viewers’ Reports, hearing notices to all affected landowners, and easement payments.

  • Discussed the status of the Stony Creek Restoration project, including the possible redetermination of benefits for Clay C.D. No. 31, which hasn’t changed since the ditch was built in 1907. 

  • Discussed the status of the Otter Tail River Restoration project. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to complete their work on the feasibility report and environmental assessment by the end of 2018, which would position the project to be eligible to apply for Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council Program funding in 2019. 

  • Noted that the next Mediation Project Team meeting will be held on 2/22/17 at 1:30 PM in the BRRWD office.

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next regular meeting on Monday, January 22, 2018, 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.