Blue Earth County OKS Ditch Repairs by Lake Crystal

Mankato Free Press, November 23, 2016

Blue Earth County OKs ditch repairs by Lake Crystal

By Trey                                                             

MANKATO — Blue Earth County is making plans to clean up one of its largest ditch systems.

The Blue Earth County Board approved repairs on County Ditch 56, a 9-mile system that drains into Crystal Lake, during a public meeting Tuesday. The ditch filters water from about 9,300 acres of farmland and has become an environmental concern in recent years as fertilizers drain into Crystal Lake.

The project is part of a larger collaboration between area officials and residents to clean up Crystal Lake and other nearby waterways affected by pollution from residential and agricultural runoff.

Repairs will cost about $785,000, which includes $565,000 in landowner assessments. The county will pay about $202,000 in buffer acquisition costs and construction damages, while culvert work for the city of Lake Crystal will be about $17,500.

Work on the ditch will include cleaning out sediment accumulation and other muck, repairing erosion along ditch banks and clearing out shrub and brush along the 9-mile path.

“We found areas where sediment built up over 2 feet in the bottom of the ditch,” said Chuck Brandel, a civil engineer with ISG Group of Mankato, which conducted topographical surveys of the system.

County officials previously have said the project also will involve installing new water intakes, rip-rap and other devices that help slow water flow and allow sediment to settle out instead of getting into the ditch.

Brandel said the repairs to the ditch system, originally constructed more than 100 years ago, were necessary given the last major cleanup of Ditch 56 took place in 2001. Workers cleaned 5,500 feet of open ditch and removed a majority of nearby trees at the time.

County officials held several meetings with residents and landowners leading up to Tuesday’s public hearing on the project. No one spoke out against the repairs, and several landowners said the project was necessary to ensure the ditch moves water smoothly off of farm land.

“It’s something that needs to be done,” said John Frey, who owns about 20 acres within the watershed that drains into Ditch 56. “If you take a look at the other ditch (my land drains into), that thing is backed up and over the road. You can’t even get from Madelia over to Lake Crystal on the blacktop because of the water over the road.”

Brandel said the project would be put out for bid over the next 30 to 45 days, and construction is expected to start next year.

Follow Trey Mewes on Twitter at @ MFPTreyMewes.

An overview of the CD56 repair

One drop at a time…