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Kandiyohi County Commissioners delay action on wetland appeal

Duane Hultgren, of Raymond, on Tuesday tells the Kandiyohi County Commissioners that the wetland technical evaluation panel erred in denying his application. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

WILLMAR –– A Kandiyohi County farmer is appealing a decision by a three-member panel that denied his after-the-fact application for digging ditches in a wetland in the northern part of the county.

On Tuesday, Duane Hultgren, of Raymond, told the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners that the wetland technical evaluation panel erred in denying his application.

After hearing lengthy testimony on the issue, the Commissioners agreed they weren’t able to make an immediate determination and delayed making a decision until April 1.

The issue came to light last year when the Department of Natural Resources received a tip of a potential wetland violation on property Hultgren owns in Colfax Township.

After a fly-over by the DNR and on-site viewing, the DNR determined Hultgren had dug a series of ditches that totaled 4,600 lineal feet through a partially drained lake bed known as Fish Lake.

Their report said the ditches were 2½ to 3 feet deep and 4 to 6 feet wide and that excavated soil that was placed alongside the ditches ranged from 6 to 12 feet wide.

Hultgren doesn’t deny doing the excavation and creating –– what he called –– trenches without a permit.

Hultgren also said he did nothing wrong and his trenches do not violate any wetland rules.

In his testimony before the board, Hultgren said the dirt from the trenches was used as elevated pathways for his cattle to use to get from one area to another and to prevent them from grazing in land enrolled in a “debt for nature” program.

He said using trenches was a normal farming practice for controlling grazing by cattle and that water is not being drained from the area because it would have to travel up-hill through the ditches.

The panel disagreed.

On Nov. 7, the DNR sent Hultgren a restoration order, with a Dec. 31 deadline and on Nov. 19 Hultgren submitted an after-the-fact application to the Kandiyohi County Soil and Water Conservation District requesting multiple exemptions, according to findings of fact submitted by the panel.

After discussing several options with Hultgren, the panel denied his application on Jan. 2. and on Feb. 3 Hultgren submitted a letter to appeal the panel’s decision.

During the board meeting Hultgren said the panel, which included County Environmental Services Director Jeff Bredberg, Kandiyohi County SWCD Director Rick Reimer, and Kane Radel from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, didn’t do their job of learning the history of the land and viewing it during the growing season.

He also said the panel’s classification of the property as a class 3 wetland was incorrect.

Hultgren told the Commissioners he would put in additional blockades in the trenches and asked for additional time to work out a plan.

Several Commissioners indicated they had intended to vote in support of the panel after reading the reports but said after hearing the testimony they were unsure how to vote.

Commissioners Harlan Madsen and Dean Shuck said they didn’t have the technical knowledge about wetland classifications and had too many unanswered questions to make a decision.

Bredberg said all of Hultgren’s concerns are addressed in the panel’s report and are based on information from individuals who have “experience and knowledge.”

The board agreed they needed additional time to review the information before making a decision on whether to deny or support Hultgren’s appeal.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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