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Buffer strips are a priority concern for County Board

Stevens County farmers who farm along county ditches no. 2 and no. 4 will be getting a letter from the county soon, reminding them to leave the buffer strip alone.

In his report to the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, County Engineer Brian Giese noted that "the buffer strip has been infringed on a great deal" on ditch 2.

Minnesota drainage law requires one rod, or 16.5 feet, of grass along drainage ditches to help reduce erosion and sedimentation.

Giese also reported that a smaller percentage of ditch 4 was in violation but there were still some significant violations.

Giese asked the commissioners, acting as the county ditch authority, how to proceed. He said they could ignore the situation, send notifications to landowners, or simply re-establish the buffer strips.

Commissioner Phil Gausman said there's too much money invested in county ditches to just let them slide back. He said letters to landowners would be a first step.

Landowner Jim Hagen spoke at the meeting, urging commissioners to reconsider an earlier decision not to hire a ditch inspector.

Hagen said there are a number of landowners who don't know what their renters might be doing and "you could end up with renters fighting renters."

Giese said that letters will go out within a month.

The commissioners also voted to make improvements to county ditch 30. Giese noted that the county received a petition for these improvements and the commissioners voted uanimously to hire an engineer to plan the improvement.

In other business:

The county commissioners approved a three-year contract with the University of Minnesota to provide Extension programs and staff in Stevens County;

-Approved a $25 permit fee for public fireworks displays;

-Reappointed Bruce Malo to the Housing and Redevelopment Board. Malo has served for almost 13 years on the HRA Board;

-Voted to advertise for art to display in the county courthouse. Commissioners Jeanne Ennen and Phil Gausman are coordinating this project along with Stevens County Deputy Tom Loew.