Monthly Archives: January 2017

BRRWD Receives Project Update

Representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) updated the Board of Managers, Buffalo-Red River Watershed District (BRRWD), regarding their work around the Manston Slough Restoration Project. The update occurred at the BRRWD’s meeting held on Monday, January 23, 2017, in their Barnesville office. The NRCS and the project contractor, Chris Tunheim, said that the work is going fairly well. The work is occurring on the lands enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program surrounding the core of the main project area. Work includes mowing of trees, habitat management, and wetland restorations. The contract is for three years, and will include burning and herbicide application. Late last fall, the NRCS asked the BRRWD to lower the water levels to aid in the completion of their work. As soon as we started to release water, the BRRWD recognized that there were downstream problems. A motion was approved to clean Wilkin County Ditch (C.D.) No. 13-Lateral. That work was not started due to the weather conditions, but it is expected that it will begin this spring. All boards on the north dam have now been removed to accommodate the NRCS work. NRCS asked that we keep the boards out of the structure for all of 2017, so they can complete their work. Bruce Albright, BRRWD Administrator, noted that if we have major flooding this spring, we may need to put the boards back in to utilize the flood control aspects of the project. The contractor said that he understands the BRRWD’s obligation in that regard. The NRCS has about 1,500 acres under this current contract. They are also going to look at grazing and possible haying of certain areas on an annual basis to help control future tree growth.

While the NRCS officials were still present, the Board discussed the Wolverton Creek Restoration Project. Hopes are that the NRCS could bring federal dollars to the project through their Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). In particular, the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Partnership voluntary program signs agreements with eligible partners to leverage resources to carry out high priority wetland protection, restoration, and enhancement and to improve wildlife habitat. A meeting was held with NRCS officials on January 6, 2017. They indicated that since this is primarily a habitat program, they were concerned about the proposed widths of buffers strips along the restored channel. Erik Jones, Engineer, Houston Engineering, Inc. (HEI), has developed a right-of-way table for Phase I. Widths vary by parcel, but range between 250 and 720 feet based upon the topography next to the channel. If a landowner signs up for ACEP, they will also qualify for construction dollars. On Phase I, if every landowner participated, it appears the NRCS could bring close to $2.8 million to the project. The BRRWD has a permit to restore 26.2 miles of channel, at an estimated cost of $11 million dollars. To date, approximately $5 million has been secured through the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). The NRCS first requires an easement before they can bring project construction dollars to the table. We currently have four landowners signed up for the program. We will need to see if the federal program can work before going any further. NRCS has a Geographical Area Rate Cap (GARC) for Wilkin County of $2,956 for cropland and $1,264 for non-cropland. The 2015 Reinvest in Minnesota rates for Wolverton Township are $4,917.06 for cropland and $3,278.40 for non-cropland. The BRRWD may need to figure out a way to supplement landowners regarding their easement payment if we use the GARC rates.

Other business included:

  • Regarding Permit No. 16-076, the Board thought that the proposed new approach on the south line of Section 30, Nielson Township, Wilkin County, which would cross C.D. No. 12, should be installed on the quarterline so that both landowners could use it. The applicant has indicated that placement of the culvert at that location will not work. He wants to move the approach approximately 0.25 miles east. The Board agreed that this new location would also be acceptable and that the approach expense (materials/installation) would be covered as a ditch system expense.

  • Noting that in accordance with Minnesota Statues, Section 13.05, Subd. 5, the BRRWD has developed a policy for insuring security of not-public data. The policy includes a data inventory which identifies and described all not-public data on individuals maintained by the BRRWD.

  • Noting that since the last meeting, Albright has met with a representative for the Fischer family regarding a storage material lease that we are trying to finalize regarding Project No. 49, Oakport Flood Mitigation. The initial lease on the stockpile of material ran out in 2013. Since that time, the BRRWD has been trying to work with the family to get the lease extended. The material was removed from the property last summer with the construction of Phase IV.

  • Reviewed the BRRWD’s financial status. In the last two weeks, the BRRWD has received income totaling $63,137.72. Cash-on-hand totals $2,308,783.85.

  • Submitted applications to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources flood damage reduction grant assistance program for Barnesville Township ($7.8 million), Upper South Branch ($1.39 million), and Stony Creek ($7 million). The amounts represent 50% of the current estimated project cost. Albright said depending upon scheduling, etc. the funds could be needed before 2020. The office will also work with our local Legislators to submit bills to the House and Senate regarding the funding requests.

  • Noting that the legal paperwork has been completed with BWSR regarding the Elkton Township Wetland Mitigation Bank. The bank establishes 88.7 acres of state wetland credits. In order to obtain one of the necessary easements on the Manston Slough Restoration Project, the Board agreed to sell 2.6 acres of credits from the bank, once established. Albright will work with Mark Aanenson, Wetland Scientist, HEI, to transfer those credits. The Board has total project costs of $794,911. Divided by the total number of credits, that equals $8,961.79 per acre or 0.205 per square foot. The Board agreed to sell the credits regarding Manston Slough at the rate of $10,000 per acre. Future sales will be analyzed on an as needed basis.

  • Noting that the office has revised a petition for a second outlet to Clay-Wilkin Judicial Ditch No. 1. The second outlet would be located on the south side of the Clay-Wilkin county line and would drain directly west into Wolverton Creek. The petition was revised based on comments from the BRRWD’s Attorney, Tami Norgard, Vogel Law. Once the required number of signatures are obtained, the BRRWD can complete the preliminary Engineer’s Report and hold the preliminary hearing with all of the affected parties.

  • Noting that the next Mediation Project Team meeting has been changed from February 9 to February 16, 2017, due to a conflict. The meeting will begin at 1:30 PM in the BRRWD office in Barnesville. Active project discussions include Stony Creek, Barnesville Township, South Branch of the Buffalo River, and Wolverton Creek.

  • Approved payment of bills totaling $191,428.43.

  • Agreed to pay a $1,478.75 cost overrun pertaining to the Otter Tail Riverbank Restoration Site located in Wilkin County. The amount represents 25% of a cost overrun for changes in quantities due to an unusable existing stockpile of woody material that was deemed unsuitable for construction. The landowners share of the project cost were capped at 25%. 

  • Discussed the status of BWSR’s Performance Review and Assistance Program Level II Assessment. A Level II Assessment evaluates progress on plan implementation, operational effectiveness, and partner relationships. The office is working on a tabulation of the BRRWD’s goals and the accomplishments achieved to date. Also, surveys have been mailed out to our working partners. If everything goes well, the process should be completed by the end of March 2017. 

  • Noting that the office continues to make progress regarding the update of the BRRWD’s Rules. Sections have been added regarding the MS4 program and buffers. Once the draft is done, it needs to be submitted to the BWSR for a 45-day review. It also has to be noticed for review and comment to all public transportation authorities that have jurisdiction within the Watershed District at least 45 days prior to adoption. The BRRWD would then be required to publish notice of a hearing in all of the affected county legal newspapers. After adoption, the office should mail a copy of the Rules to the governing board of each municipality affected by the Watershed District. Albright will get the most recent draft out to the Managers prior to the 02/13/17 meeting. Hopes are that the draft Rules can be adopted at that time and submitted for further review. 

  • Noting that a meeting will be held with the Clay Soil and Water Conservation District on February 1, 2017, at 10:00 AM, in their office in Moorhead, to discuss the new buffer law and who may assume the administrative penalty order process (enforcement). The meeting will also include representatives from the Wild Rice Watershed District in Ada, since Clay County is partially within their boundaries.

The Board of Managers, BRRWD, will hold their next meeting on Monday, February 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

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