8/18/2017 3:27:00 PM Residents weigh in on levy for ditch maintenance
MONICA LUNDQUIST Cass County Correspondent
PINE RIVER-About a half a dozen of the 36 property owners who have been paying a special levy the last four years to clean County Ditch 9 appeared at Tuesday's county board meeting at Pine River City Hall to comment on whether the levy should continue.
Under state regulations, the county can clean an existing ditch and remove beavers and beaver dams, but cannot completely rebuild a drainage ditch without hiring an engineering firm to design it. That boosts the cost significantly.
So, the county chose four years ago to levy $30,000 to clean the ditch.
The money has been spent to remove beaver dams, trap beavers, have an excavating firm and the county highway department remove sediment from the ditch and to improve water flow from Jokela Lake.
The lake has drained down to 1-foot water depth and reportedly filled in with cattails.
A few of those attending Tuesday's meeting who live downstream along the ditch reported they no longer have water in their basements.
Jim Rice, who owns much of the acreage upstream between Jokela Lake and those homeowners, said he has not seen enough benefit from the changes on his property where he had hoped more of the now swampy land would become drier farmland.
He said he did not think the highway department used the correct side slopes for the ditch, based on the 1918 specifications he saw for the original ditch design. He said the ditch bottom should be wider.
"If they're not going to do it right, we should quit doing it," Rice said.
Auditor-Treasurer Sharon Anderson said the 1918 records are incomplete. While there are some design specifications, there is no record on whether those specifications actually were used.
Assistant Engineer Kris Lyytinen said highway department personnel dug out the ditch sediment down to the native sand in the ditch. He said county employees could do a 4-foot bottom on the ditch without triggering an engineering study, which they did, he said.
He also reported a trapper caught 43 new beavers early this summer after removing the old beaver dams and original beavers in the ditch in prior years.
County engineer Darrick Anderson said the beaver control has been great for the township.
Board Chair Dick Downham suggested county staff should look more closely at the original specifications that are available, then meet with property owners along the ditch to reach a consensus before returning to the board with a recommendation on whether or not the county board should approve levying another $21,000 over five years to continue the beaver removal program.
Administrator Joshua Stevenson said Wednesday in a telephone interview he expects the board to consider the issue again in September after the board ditch committee (Commissioners Bob Kangas and Neal Gaalswyk) meets with landowners and the highway department.
The county ditch attorney and a DNR representative will be invited to attend the next board meeting on the issue, Stevenson said.
Second publication rights after Brainerd Dispatch.