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Ditches abandoned to support wetland restoration

MORRIS – On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners approved the partial abandonment of sections in two county ditch systems so landowners could move forward with wetland restoration projects.

Loren Schmidgall petitioned the board to abandon an upper section of County Ditch 18 to restore a wetland and create a wetland bank in the area.

Jason Kirwin of Environmental Scientific explained that if the ditch tile is abandoned Schmidgall will install a dyke to help backup water and create the wetland. Schmidgall will continue to pay benefits to the ditch system.

The second abandonment concerned several branches of County Ditch 22. Jim Luniewski with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, and Andy Rice with the Stevens County Soil and Water Conservation District, presented the project to the board on behalf of petitioners Ainars and Debra Silis and Jeffrey Severson.

Luniewski said the property had been enrolled in a wetland restoration program. The project will create two wetlands of about 40 acres. As part of the project, township roads will be raised and flattened in three areas to prevent them from flooding.

Private utilities, public land

On Tuesday, the Stevens County Board of Commissioners held a discussion about whether the county should allow private utilities in a public right of way.

The discussion was prompted, in part, by an application for a private water main in the right of way along Highway 8, Stevens County Engineer Brian Giese said.  

In past practice, the board has allowed private crossings and short runs for electric lines and septic systems in right of ways, Giese said. But the county does not have a policy on other larger private uses.

Giese said he recommended that the board allow the use because it can help local residents and help serve the community better. In the long term, allowing the permits could help the county plan better in the long-term and prevent the county from having to move utilities later.

The board did not take a vote on the issue at the meeting.

Other business

  • The board approved a $2,500 payment to continue their support for the Father’s Resource Program, a program Human Services Director Joanie Murphy said provides a good bridge to connect children and parents. There are 11 counties involved with the program.
  • The board approved contracts with the Stevens County DAC and the Divine House for adult day training and habilitation services and semi-independent living services. The rates for these contracts are set by the state and went up 5 percent this year after the legislature passed an increase for employee wages.