Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Ditch déjà vu
Jan. 3, 2011

It’s one year later, and the city is still no closer to a solution on Ditch 34

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

DELANO, MN – It felt like déjà vu all over again at the Dec. 20 Delano City Council meeting with Wright County Commissioner Jack Russek telling the council Ditch 34 won’t be able to be looked at until spring, when the snow is gone.

A strikingly similar conversation took place almost a year ago to the day, with Russek in attendance to discuss the ditch, which is a major component of a proposed industrial park west of Delano.

For a number of years, the city has been working toward the development of an industrial park west of Delano, with one of the major hurdles being storm water runoff, according to a memo to the council from City Administrator Phil Kern, who wished to bring the issue to the council one more time before year-end.

Back in 2006, the city applied to Wright County for permission to discharge into Ditch 34.

“Despite the city’s belief that it has the legal right to discharge to Ditch 34, the county denied the city’s application,” Kern said in the memo. The county requested the city consider some improvements recommended by Russek prior to reapplying for a discharge permit.

During 2008-09, city staff worked with Russek and the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and in 2009, the city submitted an application for wetland approvals to conduct some improvements along Ditch 34 at the county’s request, according to Kern. This application resulted in a public review process, and a public meeting took place in December 2009.

Kern said residents rejected the county’s proposed improvements, noting they were not needed and failed to address the true maintenance problems of the ditch.

City Engineer Vince Vander Top of Wenck Associates said there was a lot of discussion about what types of improvements were needed. At the end of the meeting a year ago, it was agreed that the county and the SWCD would take a look at the ditch. Following that meeting, at a regular council meeting in December 2009, Russek said the ditch would need to be looked at in the spring due to snow.

Russek and the SWCD requested the city expand the review period on its application to provide them time to work with the residents and identify a solution, according to Kern.

From January through April 2010, the SWCD and city staff discussed the status of the requests made by the county and ultimately, no further recommendation has been provided.

In May 2010, at the request of the SWCD, the city withdrew its application to make improvements to Ditch 34, Kern said.

“At this time, the city is continuing its efforts to pursue industrial development, but has no further direction from the county regarding Ditch 34,” Kern added. City staff recommended the city continue to develop its storm water runoff plan and the eventual resubmission of an application to discharge into Ditch 34 from future industrial development.

“Staff anticipates it may take several months to fully be prepared to submit the application, but failure to initiate that process will only delay this step further,” Kern said.

At the meeting Dec. 20, Russek said the county and SWCD could get an estimate of what it would cost to fix two or three “blowout” areas of the ditch that are bad, and get back to the city.

“Then, the city can decide what it wants to do,” Russek added, estimating the costs to be less than $15,000.

“You never know until you get the estimates from someone who does this kind of work,” he said.

Kern said it’s been frustrating for city staff because this conversation took place a year ago, and said a “whole season” has been missed to move forward with any part of the project.

“We need to move ahead,” Kern said.

Russek admitted he should have put more pressure on the SWCD to get out and take a look at the ditch.

He added he would be sure the issue gets discussed the first week in January in an effort to keep it moving forward.

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