Olsen advises hard look at Lincoln County drainage

IVANHOE?- Lincoln County’s regular board meeting on Tuesday was all about water as Environmental Administrator Robert Olsen delivered his annual report on drainage and the condition of Lake Benton.

Lake Benton has been plagued in recent years by the introduction of curly leaf pondweed and invasive species from Asia that has bloomed enough to choke the lake.

Olsen reported that in meetings with the state Department of Natural Resources and the Lake Benton Improvement District, an agreement was reached to draft a vegetation management plan sometime this summer.

The DNR was concerned about overuse of the herbicide used to control the weed in the lake, Olsen said.

Also of concern was the state of the 105 miles of open drainage ditch and 134 miles of county drainage tile lines. Olsen reported while open ditch is relatively easy to maintain, parts of the buried tile system are clay and concrete tile that is about 100 years old now. Much of the clay tile is crumbling, some of the concrete tile laid in acidic soil has no bottom, and most of the older tile is cracked throughout.

“Millions of dollars of tile need to be replaced,” Olsen said. “The average tile life is 60 years, and we’re well over that.”

Olsen said it was fortunate that land and crop prices are high, and bonding companies are offering the best ever interest rates and return.

Possible problems include opposition from federal and state agencies.

“The three ‘Rs’ – repair, replace, reconstruct – are all simple procedures,” Olsen said. “If you improve and significantly increase the hydraulic capacity of the system, it gets complicated.”

Olsen said the situation was not yet urgent, but the county needed to consider start replacing tile before it does. He asked the board to consider authorizing a thorough evaluation of the system to see where line needs to be replaced first and plan meetings with landowners to discuss financing and assessment of benefits.

In other business, at the recommendation of Emergency Manager Jeanna Sommers, the board voted to authorize a $300 contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the ability to put a microwave link on the MNDOT tower just north of Ivanhoe.

The board also authorized the renewal of a $4,050 contract with Safe Assure for Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) regulation safety training for county employees at Sommers’ recommendation.

County Transportation Director Cara Nielsen presented the board with two proposals. The board approved, at Nielsen’s recommendation, a contract with Southwest Health and Human Services for volunteer driver services at the federal mileage rate plus 10 cents, or 65 cents per mile.

The board also voted to accept state funds in the amount of $173,000 for the operation and maintenance of county transportation services.