By Anna Jauhola
Water resource professionals gathered in Kittson County last week during a bus tour to view a major project that has helped reduce flooding and the damage it caused.
The Red River Partners Summer Tour held its annual workshop in Grand Forks, which included the bus tour. On Wednesday, Aug. 24, the group of about 50 people gathered on CSAH 5, south of Highway 11 east of Donaldson, to view the Springbrook PL-566 project. This coulee drains directly into Judicial Ditch 10.
Dan Money, administrator of Two Rivers Watershed District, spoke about the project, which he was a part of as it was built. The project was completed in 2013.
“That was a large project. We talked yesterday about cooperation and collaboration, and this is a huge project. It took probably over 12 years from start to finish,” Money said. “We did about 9.7 miles of dikes. We did 28 sidewater inlets.”
The entire project cost $2.1 million with the majority of funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service PL-566 program at $1.3 million. The DNR kicked in $160,000, the Two Rivers Watershed paid $200,000 and the Board of Water and Soil Resources’ Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program paid $430,000, Money said.
The Springbrook project follows a natural drainage path that caused a lot of major overland flooding through the years. Money said it had been on the DNR’s projected water list and its natural meandering channels were causing serious erosion and flooding issues.
“We were seeing where a lot of farmers had taken matters into their own hands and done some straightening over the years,” Money said.
In the 1990s, local, state and federal agencies began working together to find a solution for this issue. It happened, the federal PL-566 program through NRCS had funding.
“The NRCS was integral in helping design this project,” Money said. “They had a whole fleet of economists to prove it was a cost benefit ratio of at least one-to-one. We hit that because of all the different crops raised – sugar beets, beans, wheat, etc. Also all the road damages, they took that into account.”
Engineers conducted a stream assessment with help from DNR fisheries the Two Rivers Watershed district and NRCS.
To fully educate all the landowners along the path of the Springbrook project, Money said those involved sat down with each individual to discuss what problems they have with flooding and erosion, and share the benefits of the project. They also collected data from each landowner regarding input costs for crop acreage.
“Since this was built in 2013, all the landowners along here have said it’s been a great project,” Money told the crowd. “They don’t see the flooding they did before. There’s some maintenance — mowing or spraying if we see thistle or noxious weeds. And on the very upstream end, we have a beaver problem.”
Members of the crowd asked a few questions, such as how the watershed district maintains the coulee that is the Springbrook PL-566 project.
Money said they do a few things — mowing, which keeps down thistles, willows and other invasive plants; spraying, which does the same thing, with usually a helicopter service and four-wheelers; and beaver control.
He noted the landowners along this project were all on board because they knew they had a problem. Although it was a challenge to get all the project into the Reinvest in Minnesota project, it was a solid tool to use for its completion. Once they completed the paperwork, easements and other requirements, it was a sweetened pot for the landowners as several of them were able to put land into CRP and then RIM did a permanent easement on top of that.
“It provides a great benefit. The grass buffer is great – we don’t see the erosion we did before,” Money said. “There is some maintenance, but there’s always going to be long-term maintenance.”
The bus tour also stopped at locations by Oslo, Drayton, the Swift Coulee Channel Restoration in Warrenton and McCrea townships in Marshall County, the Agassiz Valley Water Resource Management project in Marshall and Polk counties, and the Grand Forks Riverside Park Dam.
By Anna Jauhola