BRRWD Holds Annual Meeting

On January 9, 2017, the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), held their annual meeting. The meeting included election of officers. The following will serve in 2017: Gerald L. Van Amburg, Chairman, Clay County; Peter V. Fjestad, Vice Chairman, Otter Tail County; Mark T. Anderson, Treasurer, Clay County; John E. Hanson, Secretary, Becker County; Jay A. Leitch, 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 2017 consulting engineer. Vogel Law Firm was hired to represent the Watershed District regarding legal services. A two-year contract was entered into with Joel Carlson to provide services regarding the BRRWD’s lobbying work at the Capital. Harold J. Rotunda, Certified Public Accountant, was hired to do the 2016 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 located within the District, as the need arises.

The Board met with Dale Krystosek, Performance Review Assistance Program (PRAP) Coordinator, and Pete Waller, Board Conservationist, Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR), regarding a 2017 PRAP review. Level II is a routine, interactive review intended to cover all LGUs at least once every 10 years. This review evaluates progress on plan implementation, operational effectiveness, and partner relationships, and includes assessing compliance with Level II performance standards. BWSR’s PRAP was authorized by the Legislature in 2007 as a means to monitor and assess the performance of local water management entities. An annual report to the Legislature outlining the work conducted under the program is completed. The schedule for completing the review was discussed. After this initial kick-off meeting, BWSR will provide a survey to county and agencies regarding the BRRWD’s activities. We also need to fill out a table that assesses our progress towards implementing our plan objectives. Assuming everything stays on track, BWSR would like to come to the 03/13/17 BRRWD meeting to review the draft report. If no problems are noted, BWSR would deliver the final report at the 03/27/17 meeting.

The Board met with Clay County Commissioners Jenny Mongeau and Frank Gross regarding a Buffalo River Flood Insurance update proposal. In 2008, hydrologic and hydraulic analysis were completed as part of the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) update for Clay County. Due to an error in the mapping, there is interest at the present time in extending the Buffalo River hydraulic analysis further upstream of Trunk Highway (T.H.) No. 10, approximately 0.25 miles to the south. It is also believed that an unsteady HEC-RAS analysis from T.H. No. 10 downstream 7.25 miles to County Road (C.R.) No. 19 north of Glyndon would produce more realistic and accurate base flow elevations. The previous steady state HEC-RAS analysis was limited in its ability to simulate breakout flows that may occur in this area during flooding events. The restudy would include developing new project hydrology for the noted area, performing hydraulic analysis, floodplain mapping, preparing a submittal to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and post-submittal correspondence and analysis. HEI estimates that the described tasks would cost $78,000, which does not include any FEMA fees that will also be required to process the update as a Letter of Map Revision. This issue was discussed with the County Board on December 20, 2016, the same day they approved the BRRWD’s 2017 taxing petitions. BRRWD Administrator, Bruce E. Albright, said there’s approximately $20,000 left in a Clay County Buyout fund for a program that ended several years ago, and those funds could be used to pay part of the FIS restudy costs. It was suggested that the BRRWD try to raise 50% of the needed funding. The balance of the funding would need to come from the BRRWD’s Minnesota Statutes Annotated (M.S.A.) 103D.905, Subd. 3, account. A motion was approved to pay the referenced share of the anticipated costs, plus 50% of any fees payable to FEMA to complete the remapping.

Landowners from Section 23, Prairie View Township, Wilkin County, were in attendance to discuss a survey the BRRWD recently authorized HEI to complete to look at drainage and waterways located in Section 22, Prairie View Township. The survey shows that in each waterway downstream of County State Aid Highway No. 19, there are couple of sections that might need some minor cleaning. It should be noted, that in both cases, the sediment is lower than the field elevations in Section 22. The landowners would like to ensure that there is a plan in place to address this problem in the spring when conditions permit. Albright has not talked with the downstream landowners to find out what their plan may be. Once he obtains that information, he will contact the neighbor.

The Board reviewed the BRRWD’s monthly financial statements and year-end transactions. Total receipts for 2016 were $11,114,714.55. Total administration expenses for 2016 were $394,712.25. Albright noted that approximately $30,000 of this amount was for archiving historic permit files into the new online permit database. This should be one-time fees once that project is completed. The BRRWD ended 2016 with accounts receivable totaling $2.8 million. Total expenditures for 2016 were $9,946,898. The BRRWD allocated interest income and expenses for 2016 at the same rate as the BRRWD’s Midwest Bank interest rate of 3%. At the end of the year, the BRRWD also applied a 1% administrative fee based on all account financial activities for the year. In 2016, the fee raised was $74,090.21, which is added to the administrative account. A number of year-end account transfers were also applied in 2016 for a total of $207,206.64. These funds come from the M.S.A. 103D.905, Subd. 3, account. Cash on hand at the end of 2016 was $2,548,728.78. Since the beginning of the new year, the BRRWD has received $225. There was $2,571.98 remaining in the 2009 FEMA account, which was distributed to the 2009 FEMA projects. New numbers were added to the 2017 accounts receivable report, which totals $5,836,361.52. The Board approved the financial report and the noted year-end account changes.

The Board discussed a program sponsored by the Wilkin Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) titled, “Buffers and Burgers”. Five sessions will begin at 10:30 AM and afterwards a burger basket will be provided by the SWCD. The sessions will discuss the new Buffer Law, alternative practices, other waters, and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) options. The sessions will be held the week of February 6, starting at the Power House Bar and Grill in Rothsay. Next will be the Foxhole Bar and Grill in Foxhome, and Wednesday, it will be at the Harvesters’ Watering Hole in Campbell. On Thursday it will be held at the Wilkin in Breckenridge, and on Friday, it will be held at the Fort Saloon Bar in Abercrombie, ND. The BRRWD will have a factsheet that can be handed out at the sessions that will detail our buffer work regarding the legal drainage systems.

The Board discussed the status of selecting a document management system. Currently, the BRRWD is looking at three different systems, including M-Files, DM+IntelliCloud, and Laserfiche. Albright distributed an analysis sheet that reviews the benefits of each particular system. He said staff was not ready to make a recommendation regarding which system the Board should consider. Staff will arrange a time to meet with the Wild Rice Watershed District in Ada where they are currently using M-Files.

Other business included:

  • Approval of permits to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the resurfacing of T.H. No. 32 between T.H. Nos. 10 and 34, including minor culvert replacements; and Shawn and Jessie Norman for 182 acres of pattern tiling east of T.H. No. 9 in the NW1/4, Section 28, and the NE1/4, Section 29, Manston Township, Wilkin County, including two outlets: one to the T.H. No. 9 road ditch and the other to a natural waterway that flows into Manston Slough.

  • Noting that a number of permits are still tabled for a variety of reasons, including receipt of information from the applicants: Permit Nos. 16-021, KTM Farms; 16-052, Goltz Farm, LLC; 16-098, Thomas Deal; 16-110, Chad Nelson; 16-122, Ted Peterson; and 16-126, Eugene Kaiser.

  • Discussed a drainage complaint in Section 3, Callaway Township, Becker County. The claim was filed by Harlan Wentz and alleges that upstream landowners to the east and south both installed tile systems without BRRWD permits that drain through his property. The natural surface drainage always did go through the Wentz property from these upstream lands. Wentz is concerned that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will not allow him to tile his property because of wetlands. The upstream landowner to the east, Eugene Kaiser, has filed a permit application. The landowner to the south, John Steffl, was asked to submit an application, but to date, we have not received it. Albright will recontact him. 

  • Noting that all boards have been removed from the north dam structure on the Manston Slough Restoration project. Earlier this fall, the NRCS asked the BRRWD to lower the water to accommodate work on their adjacent Wetlands Reserve Program properties. A full report from the NRCS is expected at the 01/23/17 BRRWD meeting. 

  • Regarding Project No. 49, Oakport Flood Mitigation, R. J. Zavoral & Sons, Inc. has stopped work during the winter months. There is still some cleanup to do in the spring. Albright is trying to resolve the issue regarding the Fischer stockpile lease. Last week, he spent time dealing with a lawsuit filed by a Phase 4 landowner who claims we trespassed on their property. Ulteig Engineers, Inc. records show that the trespass did not occur. The office is also dealing with a claim from the contractor regarding delays that he feels cost him extra money. The delays pertain to easements, removal of the Andy Noah house, and relocation of the Century Link cable. 

  • Noting that US Bank still has not finalized the condemnation proceedings pertaining to the Greywind property needed for the Georgetown Levee project. Attorneys from Vogel Law Firm continue to push them in that regard. 

  • Noting that the office has redrafted the petition for another outlet on the south side of the county line in Wilkin County for Clay-Wilkin Judicial Ditch No. 1. The initial petition was submitted last summer, but the attorney had several questions and clarifications that she felt were needed. The petition will be returned to the landowners, and they can recirculate it for new signatures. 

  • Noting that no work was completed on the cleanout of Wilkin County Ditch (C.D.) No. 13-Lateral this fall due to the wet conditions. The work will begin in the spring as soon as conditions permit. 

  • Noting that the next Mediation Project Team meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 1:30 PM in the BRRWD office. HEI is working on revised cost estimates for Phase 1A of the Upper South Branch of the Buffalo River project, Barnesville Township, and Stony Creek. Hopes are that Flood Damage Reduction grant applications can be submitted later this month to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources so that we can get on their list for project funding. The office will be working on easement options that can be discussed with the Board at their next meeting. 

  • Noting that the contractor was not able to complete any work on the repair of Wilkin C.D. No. 7 this fall due to the weather conditions. Work is expected to begin in the spring when conditions permit. 

  • Albright met with the Viewers on the redetermination of benefits for Wilkin C.D. No. 6A. Hopes are to have that proceeding completed before spring field work. 

  • Discussed reservations for the upcoming Red River Basin Commission Conference, titled, “Passport to Progress: Thinking Beyond Our Borders”. The event will be held on January 17-19, 2017, at the Ramada Plaza in Fargo.  

  • Noting that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton will hold a Town Hall Water Summit at the University of Minnesota-Morris on Friday, January 27, 2017. The event will bring together local government leaders, famers, students, environmental groups, and businesses to focus on water challenges and solutions in greater Minnesota. 

  • Noting that a meeting was held on January 6, 2017, in the BRRWD office with NRCS officials to talk about the status of their Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) as it pertains to the restoration of Wolverton Creek. The NRCS staff noted that the WREP program is a waterfowl production program, and they will be looking at wider buffers. HEI will tabulate a list of our buffer needs so that we can compare it with WREP. Another option to obtain funding for the necessary easements might be the new Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. 

  • Approved payment of bills totaling $303,307.65. 

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next meeting on Monday, January 23, 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.