BRRWD Approves Diversion Settlement

At their regular meeting held on October 26, 2020, at 7:00 PM in Barnesville, the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), reviewed a Binding Settlement Term Sheet (BSTS) with their Attorneys regarding a potential settlement agreement with the Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority (FM DA), the Richland/Wilkin Joint Powers Authority, and the Cities of Wolverton and Comstock. The BSTS is an adjunct document to a more comprehensive future Mutual Settlement Agreement and is binding and fully enforceable. The question the Board considered was whether to continue the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Permit Contested Case and the DA permit denial lawsuit, or to consider the proposed settlement and reconsider the permit denial with consideration of the provisions suggested in the settlement agreement. All the parties listed above, with the exception of the BRRWD, had already signed the proposed BSTS, which would only go into effect if the BRRWD agreed to reconsider and grant the DA’s permit and sign the document. BRRWD Attorneys Brent Edison, Vogel Law Firm, and Joel Fremstad, Fremstad Law Firm, provided an in depth review of the BSTS. Attorney Fremstad pointed out the Agreement would protect the BRRWD from future litigation from the other parties regarding these issues and would make sure that the conditions that were placed on the DA’s BRRWD permit application prior to denial and the list of reasons for permit denial were adequately addressed now, justifying an approval. Adequate flood mitigation funding for Georgetown, Wolverton, Christine, Comstock, and Holy Cross Township were included in the Agreement to satisfy concerns raised when the initial DA permit application was denied. The parties to litigation proposed terms to address the BRRWD’s concerns regarding the Contested Case and the reasons for permit denial, and to enhance some of the prior permit conditions. Attorney Edison explained that the DA had addressed the BRRWD concerns in good faith and had made significant concessions. After review, the Board of Managers unanimously approved a motion to issue Permit No. 19-003 for the DA’s Plan B Diversion project and to adopt the BSTS to resolve the permit denial case and the contested case.

Other Business included:

• Reviewed the BRRWD’s financial status. Cash on hand is $2,850,159.33. Income since the 10/13/20 meeting was $50,000. Total income this year is $4,277,936.77. The Board also approved payment of the bills in the amount of $465,819.00.

• Approved permits to Justin Phillips to install a field approach and a 18″ dia. culvert on the south side of the SE¼, Section 27, Tanberg Township, Wilkin County, to gain access to the field from Wilkin County Road No. 26, subject to County approval to work within their road right-of-way; Eric Skolness/Farmers National Company to clean two ditches to their original grade in the SE¼, Section 22, Alliance Township, Clay County, with downstream landowner approval; and Allen Korinek for a ditch repair in the NE¼, Section 14, Nordick Township, Wilkin County, along Wilkin County Ditch (C.D.) No. 6A to improve drainage and to slope the land to drain north instead of south with a 24″ dia. inlet pipe into C.D. No. 6A.

• Authorized a letter to a landowner in Section 13, Audubon Township, Becker County, with a list of corrective actions he will need to complete in order to correct the area drainage to comply with BRRWD Rules and to address his neighbors’ concerns. The Board scheduled a hearing on 11/9/20 at 7:30 PM during their regular meeting to discuss issues related to the drainage violations.

• Approved Pay Request No. 1 to Gladen Construction, Inc. for $385,306.31 for work completed on Phase 2 construction on Project No. 79, Wolverton Creek Restoration. The contractor has approximately one-third of the Phase 2 work completed.

• Approved repairs for Wilkin C.D. No. 6A in Nordick and Meadows Townships for approximately $10,000 for materials and labor.

• Authorized signature of a cost-share agreement with the Clay Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) for the use of excess Otter Tail SWCD Buffer initiative Aid funds for buffer installations on Clay C.D. Nos. 2, 10, 12, and 59.

• Authorized the expansion of the proposed Gruenberg drainage project in Sections 15, 22, 27, and 34, Wolverton Township, Wilkin County, to extend the proposed natural waterway cleanout upstream approximately 3 miles in response to upstream landowners’ requests.

• Approved a potential 40% match for additional 319 Minnesota Pollution Control Agency grant funds for sediment reduction work on the Upper Buffalo River to install additional Best Management Practices, including grade stabilizations, water and sediment control basins, and a restoration on the Buffalo River close to Callaway near the Becker C.D. No. 21 outlet.

• Authorized signature of a Delineation Concurrence Request for a wetland determination as part of the permitting process for the South Branch of the Buffalo River Restoration project in Wilkin County.

• Approved a supplement to the current 2020-2021 Houston Engineering, Inc. contract to add two new employees to the Barnesville BRRWD office staff. The new BRRWD Administrator will start work on 11/23/20, and a second person will join the Barnesville staff on 12/14/20 to fill a newly created Watershed Specialist position.

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next regular meeting on Monday, November 9, 2020, at 7:00 PM in the Barnesville office. Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the meeting will be conducted online in accordance with Minnesota Statutes Annotated Section 13D.021. The conference line information is: 1-701-404-1699. Conference ID: 365 708 012#. If you wish to visit the BRRWD office in person, be aware that visitor screening and social distancing are in effect. More information will be posted on the BRRWD’s website prior to the meeting at www.brrwd.org.