BRRWD Reviews Diversion Authority Budget

At their last meeting in 2015, on December 28th, the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), spent considerable time discussing the proposed Fargo-Moorhead Diversion Authority (DA) Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Budget, totaling $237.5 million.  The budget was presented to the six agencies listed in the current Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) on 12/15/15 at the Fargo City Commission room.  Signers to the JPA include the BRRWD, Clay County, the City of Moorhead, the City of Fargo, Cass County, and the Cass County Joint Water Resource District.  Some DA assumptions associated with the FY16 Budget include that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will issue the final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS); that upstream litigation will be resolved; and that Federal appropriations and a new start are obtained from the Federal Government.  Budget goals are to continue on-going activities and to prepare for split delivery project implementation.  On-going activities include supporting the DNR through completion of its EIS; complete substantial portions of in-town protection; support the Army Corp of Engineers and local design and construction projects; advance mitigation projects; support DA commitment to retention projects; and fulfill non-Federal sponsor requirements.  Several of the JPA members have already taken action to approve the budget.  The BRRWD is scheduled to take action on the requested budget at their January 11, 2016, annual meeting.

Several years ago, the City of Fargo appropriated $25 million to be used by upstream agencies regarding floodwater retention. Recently, the BRRWD submitted three projects for their consideration, including Stony Creek Flood Damage Reduction and Restoration, the Upper South Branch of the Buffalo River Project, and the Barnesville Township Area Drainage Project.  All three projects were approved for preliminary funding.  The DA has sent over contracts in this regard.  The Board agreed to take action on signing the contracts at the January 11th meeting.   

Other business included:

  • Reviewed the BRRWD’s current financial status showing $1,164,738.49 on hand.

  • Noting that Gladen Construction Inc., the contractor for Project 56, Manston Slough Restoration, has been put on notice regarding a possible warranty claim to come back in the spring of 2016 and repair soft spots in several of the roads they reconstructed, including the north embankment on 190th Street and the south embankment on 230th Street.

  • Noting that the office continues to work with a family on the Oakport Flood Mitigation Project regarding a pile of soil that is currently stockpiled on their property. All family members were contacted before Christmas in an effort to reach a settlement. The Board felt that if this settlement cannot be secured by their January meeting, they may need to use condemnation to acquire the temporary lease. The pile of material will be removed in 2016 with the construction of Phase 4, which the DNR has now funded.

  • Noting that the next Mediation Project Team meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 28, 2016, at 1:30 PM in the Watershed Office. Active project discussions include Stony Creek, Barnesville Township, and the South Branch of the Buffalo River.

  • Noting that the DNR has issued a preliminary hazard classification for the Stony Creek off-channel impoundment. At this time, the DNR has determined that the dam should be classified as high hazard, Class 1. However, they did indicate that if provisions are made to protect some of the homes located downstream of the project, they might consider lowering the hazard classification. Erik S. Jones, Engineer, Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI) plans to contact the DNR to discuss this issue further.

  • Authorized Roger Fischer Tree Service to remove nine elm trees in the Oakport project area that are infected with Dutch Elm disease. The City of Moorhead requires their removal. Fischer furnished a bid of $2,244.38 to do the work.

  • Noting that Jones and Bruce Albright, Administrator, BRRWD, continue to work on updating the Revised Watershed Management Plan (RWMP). Jones noted that he expects a draft RWMP will be submitted to the Board for their review in January. Future steps include submitting the draft RWMP to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) for their 60-day review period. The BRRWD will also schedule meetings with the Technical and Citizen Advisory Committees.

  • Approved Pay Request No. 2 to Sellin Brothers, Inc. for their work associated with the Hawley Buffalo River Restoration Project-Phase 2. The amount of the pay request was $99,693.95. These costs will be reimbursed by the DNR through a grant they obtained from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

  • Noting that a landowner informational meeting regarding the Upper Red River Watershed Total Maximum Daily Load and Watershed Restoration and Protection Strategies is scheduled for Thursday, January 7, 2016, at 1:30 PM in the Watershed Office. Attendees will be given an opportunity to learn about both reports and plan strategies to address water quality issues within the study area.

  • Discussed the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s proposed legislation regarding Tiered Aquatic Life Uses (TALU). TALU is a method of classifying rivers and streams based upon what fish and invertebrates they expect to see in healthy streams. Better data and modeling has allowed agency staff to provide better stream management and protection of fish and invertebrates. To measure the health of these communities, biologists use a tool called the Index of Biological Integrity (IBI). Currently, all streams (including drainage ditches) must meet Class 2 Water Quality Standards. The statement “including drainage ditches” is of concern to the BRRWD, who has jurisdiction over 80 legal drainage systems throughout the District. However, MPCA did state in their fact sheet that this rule does not change Minnesota Drainage Law on when drainage ditches can be repaired, maintained, or cleaned. The BRRWD will continue to monitor legislation in this regard.

  • Authorized HEI to conduct repair investigations regarding the height of a berm along Branch No. 4 of Wilkin County Ditch (C.D.) No. 41 in the SE¼, Section 11, Atherton Township, and to review slope failures along Wilkin C.D. No. 6A in Sections 31 and 32, Tanberg Township.

  • Approved payment of bills totaling $582,144.31.

  • Spent the remainder of the meeting discussing an update of the BRRWD rules. The BRRWD first adopted rules in May of 1979. Those same rules still remain in effect. Albright noted that a lot has changed since then, for example the current rules do not even mention subsurface drainage (tiling). The past year or so, the Red River Watershed Management Board has offered guidelines regarding tiling. Other Minnesota Watershed Districts in the Red River Basin have already updated their rules to include the recommended guidelines. In essence, the updated rules would include language that if there is downstream flooding, an upstream landowner would need to stop his tile system until the downstream conditions improve. Albright said that during the past several years, we have had numerous complaints in this regard. The BRRWD’s neighbor to the north, the Wild Rice Watershed District, is currently updating their rules. Their draft will be used as a template for future Board discussion regarding this issue. In accordance with Minnesota Watershed Law, changes to the rules can only be made after public notice and a hearing. Once the amended rules are drafted, they need to be sent to BWSR for a 45-day review. All counties and cities within the Watershed District must also be notified of the proposed changes. The BRRWD would like to complete their rules update process this winter.  

The next meeting of the Board of Managers, BRRWD, which is also their Annual Meeting, including the election of officers and appointment of 2016 consultants, will be held on Monday, January 11, 2016, at 7:00 PM in their Barnesville office located at 1303 4th AVE NE, Barnesville, MN. All meetings are open to the public.  For more information, please visit our website at www.brrwd.org.