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Renville County Boards looks at ditch system 'house cleaning'

OLIVIA -- Renville County's Board of Commissioners will take up discussions on the possibility of launching an ongoing process to re-determine the benefits for ditch systems in the county.

Assistant County Attorney Glen Jacobsen told the commissioners on Tuesday that a number of systems have debts to retire, but the assigned benefits do not reflect the current reality of those systems.

He indicated that some sort of updating or housekeeping is needed to bring the ditch systems' financial accounts current and assure that costs are assigned fairly to the benefits received.

He provided a list of 55 ditch systems which are based on benefit determinations made 50 years ago or more; some last had their benefits determined in 1911 and 1917.

Without doubt, all of the ditch systems have been expanded through tiling and other changes since the benefits were last determined, he and commissioners noted.

They also noted that a re-determination process would raise concerns. The re-determination process would require that the ditches being considered are brought into compliance with state law.

In the case of many open ditches in the county, that will require installing protective vegetative buffers along the channels.

The process is also likely to identify instances where farm drainage lines have been expanded beyond the approved drainage watershed for the systems, it was noted.

Larry Zupke, county ditch inspector, said the re-determination process could focus initially on tile-only drainage systems in the county. He offered to identify a list of tile systems most in need of updating due to financial obligations on the systems.

He recommended that the county identify five to eight ditch systems each year to re-determine the benefits.

It currently costs about $4 to $5 per acre to complete a re-determination of benefits, he added.