Farmers question ditch benefits redetermination

NEW ULM – After listening to several Mulligan Township farmers discuss issues with the County Ditch (CD) 28 benefits redetermination Tuesday, Brown County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution to accept redetermination findings and pay landowners $8,250 an acre for tillable acres to be acquired for one-rod (5 1/2 feet) grass strips.

Redwood Falls ditch viewer Ron Ringquist told commissioners an amended (ditch) viewer’s report was done and mailed to landowners after he learned from them that land was missed in the initial report.

Ringquist said the amended report increased CD28 total net benefits $270,480 to $5,805,882.

Landowner Alphonse Mathiowetz asked why Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land benefits fell nearly 5 percent and landowners’ benefits rose more than 5 percent in the second viewer’s report.

“We found new crossings in the second report, causing public land values to drop, which causes landowners to make up the difference,” Ringquist said. “Under statute (law), we can’t rise state land benefits, so everyone else’s values went up.”

Landowner Myron Windschitl said county and township ditches have new culverts, but they still run the same amount of water.

“It’s fairly expensive to replace road culverts,” said Commissioner Dennis Potter. “About $100,000 for single lane and $200,000 for double lane.”

“Nothing has been done about the Wood Lake dam overflow,” Myron Windschitl said. “It wrecks the ditch system.”

Jeff Zajac of the Redwood Falls DNR office, said his office is working on restructuring and repairing berms in the north fork of the Watonwan River.

“Floods may still overtop the dam, but we hope to start berm work late this year,” Zajac said.

Mathiowetz said Wood Lake has overflowed nine times since 1991, sometimes twice a year.

Myron Windschitl questioned why his net ditch benefit redetermination was almost 7 percent more than his neighbors with similar size farms.

“If we wanted everyone to have the same ditch benefit percentage, why would we re-determine it?” asked Commissioner Andy Lochner.

Myron Windschitl complained of losing 2.6 acres of land to grass strip acquisition.

“I’m almost giving the land away. I’m not happy,” he said. “It’s a permanent loss of income.”

Potter said buffer strip requests are decided by the State.

“I feel they’ll benefit the ditch system in the long run with less maintenance,” Potter added.

Grass strip acquisition is effective Sept. 1, 2013, according to The Drainage Authority findings.

Commissioners approved:

Gary and Daniel Tauer’s petition for partial abandonment of the CD 28 drainage system, Mulligan Township. Petition was deemed adequate by the County Attorney, according to the RBA. A hearing was set for 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 16, 2013.

A contract for bridge replacement and approach work over an unnamed stream on the RC Road in Milford Township by Mathiowetz Construction Co.’s low bid of $162,675.

Planning Commission recommendations for Justin and Carrie Roiger’s Conditional Use Permit (CUP) allowing up to 1,600 head of beef steers in a finishing operation in Stately Township; Steven Hansen’s CUP, continuing to allow use of property as a contractor yard for an existing construction business in Stately Township; and preliminary plats for single-lot splits for existing home sites being split from tillable land by Willis and JoAnn Lochner, Home Township; Eleonora Haber Estate, Home Township; and Larry and Ruth Potter, Burnstown Township.

Accepting the May 2013 budget report. County Administrator Chuck Enter said the budget includes a $5.2 million Minnesota Highway Department (MnDOT) payment for the Highway 258 Turnback Project. Enter said excess turnback funds will be set aside for future highway projects.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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