WILLMAR -- The process to allow a nearly 3/4-mile-long private drainage ditch in Meeker County to become part of Kandiyohi County Ditch 52 took another step Monday.
During a brief meeting, the joint ditch committee, which includes three commissioners from Kandiyohi County and two from Meeker County, affirmed the outlet fee of $14,000 that the Kandiyohi County Board had previously approved.
They also selected Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dean Shuck as chairman of the joint ditch committee.
Members of the Meeker County delegation will have to be updated after Jan. 1 because all five sitting commissioners were either defeated in the November election or did not run for re-election.
Viewers for the project, who will establish the financial benefits of the drainage system to property owners, were appointed earlier.
The final engineering report and the final viewers' report needs to be completed yet.
It's hoped that work will be done quickly so that a final public hearing on the petition for a lateral ditch addition to the system can be held yet this winter, said Kurt Deter, an attorney who specializes in drainage ditch law.
He said it's important to "keep the process going."
If the process stays on track, final approval could take place about two years after the petition was first filed in February 2011.
The petition to allow an additional 700 acres of Meeker County watershed into the Kandiyohi County ditch system has not been popular with Kandiyohi County landowners in the southern part of the county where County Ditch 52 is located.
Like the meeting Monday, past hearings have attracted the petitioners as well as residents who oppose the project.
Kandiyohi County landowners have said the watershed is already too much for the ditch to handle and that expanding the system with a lateral ditch would result in downstream flooding.
The Meeker County petitioner, Mike Lux, said in the past his family needs the drainage for their farming operation to expand and that being a legal participant in the system would mean paying their fair share for the drainage benefits.
Because the Kandiyohi County Commissioners cannot tax a property owner from a different county, it was necessary to create a joint ditch committee so that the benefits from the Kandiyohi County ditch could be assessed to a Meeker County resident.