The Complexities of Farmland Drainage (District 131)

Wright County from the air in winter, 2013-14

In continued discussions concerning Drainage District 131’s infrastructure, the Wright County Supervisors approved selective televising of problem areas of the district’s tile at an estimated cost of $17, 307. They further authorized McClure Engineering to prepare a more extensive report on grass and farm-through waterway options to increase the area’s drainage. 

The next hearing on DD 131 is set for April 14 at 10:00, by which time the new surface drainage report should be ready.

Selectively televising the pipe was the minimal action recommended to address drainage issues in the district, which Keith Hubbard of McClure said is operating at a quarter of the capacity of a modern tile system. The present tile was installed in 1917. Further action may take place depending on what is discovered during with the exploratory televisual probe.

Hubbard presented new grass waterway plans at the hearing that would cost $77,581 and $113,966 for two sections of grass waterway. At an earlier hearing on the topic on February 17, Hubbard had presented more expensive, extensive options: televising the entire line at an estimated cost of $51,000, and/or laying support or replacement tile at costs between $1 and 1.6 million. The gathered landowners overwhelmingly disapproved of installing new tile.

“It sounds like tile’s probably not going to happen,” said David Johnson, drainage district attorney.

If a majority of the landowners owning 70% of the district’s land express written opposition to the tile improvements, a remonstrance occurs, stopping construction. There are presently believed to be 57 landowners in DD 131, of which 26 had been written against the measures. 29 written notices are needed to gain the majority requirement. For voting purposes, a trust is counted as a single landowner, while jointly listed owners of parcels of land (Including remaindermen) are counted as individuals. Remonstrances bar improvements (such as tile construction) but may not halt necessary repairs, as the tile televising was deemed.

The number of landowners writing against the measure rose to 27 during the meeting when Steve Hasty of Kanawha – who owns around 60 acres in DD 131 jointly with his wife, Shirley – signed against laying tile. 16 interested individuals attended the March 17 hearing, of which Brian Wagner remained the most outspoken voice in favor of drainage improvements. An official decision had been scheduled for the meeting, but was delayed to allow for more landowner notification and feedback. Landowners who wish to voice favor or disfavor with proposed aspects of the project are urged to contact Johnson.

If constructed, the grass waterways would be maintained by the County. At the hearing, two landowners suggested exploring options to improve drainage by making part of their land into a wetland, for which they could theoretically receive financial support through the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Supervisor Stan Watne noted that a county-built waterway would exist indefinitely, but an independently-constructed wetland could revert to farmland. Landowner Larry Jacobsen again expressed concern that construction would disrupt his own recently-restored wetland, forcing him to pay back financial support he had received for its construction.

Drainage District 131 serves 22,120 acres in sections 26, 27m, and 35 of Dayton Township and 1 and 2 of Woolstock Township, southwest of Clarion and east of Eagle Grove.

Read more about the March 17 Wright County Supervisors’ meeting in the March 20 Monitor!