BROWN COUNTY - Heavy earth moving equipment whirred in the distance as a cool wind blew Friday afternoon near Judicial Ditch 30, several miles southeast of Sleepy Eye.
While only a sliver of ice remains in this ditch that links Brown and Redwood counties, slopes on either side of the ditch attest as to why it is there in Stark Township.
While extreme drought conditions create issues for many people, it's a boon for repairs to the county's drainage system, much of which was heavily damaged over the past two years with multiple floods.
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens looks at recent rip rap repairs to Judicial Ditch 30, several miles southeast of Sleepy Eye Friday. Stevens said the county has made more than 100 ditch repairs this year. Aided by warmer than normal temperatures, contractors will continue to do repair work as long as they can and continue next spring when weather conditions allow.
JD 30 is nearly 12 miles long in Brown County and twice that long in Redwood County, according to Brown County Highway Engineer Wayne Stevens. It drains into the Cottonwood River just west of the County Road 11 bridge.
Stevens has been has been busy dealing with many of the county's aging ditches this year. His department is in charge of ditch inspections and repairs.
"A nearby landowner, Chris Schewe, said he noticed lots of land erosion in the ditch over the years, so he asked us to inspect and repair it. We began the JD 30 project last fall," Stevens said. "We've been spoiled by the mostly warm weather this fall."
Commissioners approved a resolution to repair the ditch bank with rip rap - pieces of concrete rubble from building and paving demolition - to prevent further ditch bank erosion.
Stevens said the used concrete came from demolition projects in and around Sleepy Eye. He pointed out many field rocks farmers placed between the top of the ditch and nearby fields, in an effort to reduce erosion.
Rip rap can come from a variety of rock types, usually granite or limestone which are more expensive than concrete rubble. All types work well to trap and slow water flow, cutting its ability to erode soil, including impact damage by ice or debris, which is particularly desirable for bridge supports and pilings, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
"We've made more than 100 ditch repairs this year," Stevens said. "We'll keep going this fall as long as the contractors tell me they can work. Maybe a few more weeks this year. We'll start up again next spring as soon as we can."
Brown County has 234.5 miles of open ditches and 448.6 miles of tiled ditches including 63 County Ditches and 25 Judicial Ditches. The Brown County Board of Commissioners is the authority for county ditches.
Assessments, maintenance levies and ditch proceedings records are handled by the Brown County Auditor-Treasurer's Office. Drainage issues are outlined in M.S. Statute 103E011-103.
An interactive map of Brown County ditches is available on the Brown County GIS Site. For individual ditch maps, visit www.co.brown.mn.us/drainage
To contact the county highway department on drainage issues, call 507-233-5700.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.