By Ivan Raconteur
Dozens of landowners packed the Hollywood Township Hall Thursday night to present and listen to information about the proposed Crane Creek wetland restoration project, but they went home without hearing a decision on whether the project will move forward.
The meeting was continued until Monday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. in the Hollywood Township Hall.
No additional public comments will be taken, but the ditch board will vote to either approve the project with conditions, or deny it.
If approved, the Carver County Water Management Organization (WMO) will still need to get approval from all landowners in the affected area.
The project area is about halfway between New Germany and Lester Prairie, just south of Highway 7 on the Carver/McLeod County border.
The WMO has petitioned the drainage authority for Joint Ditch 1 requesting approval to impound waters for beneficial use.
The proposed plan involves the installation of two metal weirs (dam structures) within the Crow River floodplain to restore the Crane Creek wetland complex.
Joint Ditch 1 is shared by Carver and McLeod counties, and by statute, it is regulated by a five-member ditch board.
Since 64 percent of the ditch is in Carver County, and 36 percent is in McLeod County, the ditch board includes three Carver County and two McLeod County commissioners.
Ditch Board members include Carver County commissioners Tim Lynch, Jim Ische, and Gayle Degler, and McLeod County Commissioners Ray Bayerl and Kermit Terlinden.
And then there were three
One thing that did emerge during the meeting is that two of the board members will not be able to participate when the matter comes to a vote.
Lynch said he consulted with the county attorney and was advised to abstain from voting because he is in the assessed area for the ditch.
Bayerl said he is also in the assessed area, so he will also have to abstain.
Ditch Authority Attorney Kurt Deter said with two board members abstaining, two of the remaining three members would have to vote in favor of the project for it to pass.
Prior to realizing that he would have to abstain, Bayerl said he had not been to any meetings about the project since 2006, and had not received any correspondence about its status, and said he was not comfortable voting on the matter until he had time to review it.
Terlinden had not seen any information about the project prior to last week.
More of the same
In many respects, Thursday’s meeting was similar to a meeting in December about the project, which was continued to Thursday’s meeting.
Carver County Director of Property Records and Taxpayer Services Mark Lundgren called the meeting to order and reviewed the agenda.
Deter explained the statutory authority for the project, and Paul Moline of the Carver County Planning and Water Management department presented the reasons for doing the project.
During a public comment period, landowners spoke both for and against the project.
The most vocal opponents of the project were Bob Sherman and his son, Mark Sherman.
The Shermans questioned the findings of the two engineering firms that have reviewed the project, and Mark Sherman said several times that he believes the engineering report is inaccurate.
The Shermans asked a variety of questions and presented a range of concerns, including a concern that the project would affect drainage on their properties.
They also mentioned concerns about flooding and about the cost of maintaining the project, and about who would be responsible if the project does not function as expected.
Board Member Jim Ische may have given an indication of how he might vote by comments he made after the public comment period was closed.
“The key for me is the elevations, and it seems that the greatest concern is coming from six feet or significantly more (above the project area). I live on the south side of the county, and I wish we had that kind of fall,” Ische commented.
According to the plan, the pool elevation for water that would be impounded by the project would be 953 feet. The elevations given for a tile on Bob Sherman’s property were given as 968.4, and on Mark Sherman’s property, the elevation given was 982.
Jim Wilson said he owns a tree farm on 150 acres adjacent to the impacted area, and spoke in favor of the project.
“Believe me, if this project was going to cause any flooding, I’d be flooded. I don’t know how these guys could make it any simpler. If your tile is seven feet higher, (this project) isn’t going to affect it,” Wilson said.
He mentioned the area’s potential as a wildlife habitat, and said it is beautiful when there is water in the wetland.
“I think the project is worthy, and I’m all for it,” Wilson said.
Moline said currently, the project area floods in the spring, and dries out later in the year, making it unsuitable for farming. The goal of the project is to hold some water in the wetland for a longer period.
Moline said one of the reasons for doing the project is to improve water quality.
“The Crow River is on the state list of impaired waters due to a high level of pollutants. It is fairly dirty, and it will be a long process to clean it up. This could help with that process. This project would save about 2,000 pounds of phosphorus from entering the Crow River each year,” Moline said.
He added that the Crow River Organization of Waters (CROW) and others are very interested in improving water quality.
“People care. They want this river to be clean,” Moline said.
The cost of the project was also discussed.
Moline said by law, there will be no ditch assessment to build or maintain this project.
The WMO has received two grants for the project. A DNR grant was used to prepare the study, and the bulk of the project would be funded by a Metropolitan Council grant paid for by sewer fees collected from users on the Met Council system.
Moline said the grants would cover 90 percent of the project cost, and the remaining 10 percent would come from the Carver County Water Management Area.
In response to questions about flooding, Moline said the project will not affect flooding of the Crow River. “If an area floods now, it will flood after this project. If it doesn’t flood now, it won’t flood as a result of this project,” Moline said.
“Flood elevation is about 10 feet higher than this structure,” Moline said.
In response to questions about who would be responsible for the cost of cleaning out sediment accumulation caused by the project, Deter said the board had authority to make it a condition of approval that the WMO would be responsible for this cost.
In response to a concern that the project might create a mosquito breeding area, Degler said projects in the eastern part of the county have not created any problems.
“We have very good mosquito control in the eastern part of the county,” Degler said.
Ische said all of Carver County is now part of the mosquito control district.