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Progress begins to flow for Delano on Ditch 34 issue
May 23, 2011
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By Ivan Raconteur
Herald Journal Editor

BUFFALO, MN – After years of discussions, it appears that Delano’s quest for a discharge permit for a proposed industrial park could soon be over.

Delano City Administrator Phil Kern appeared before the Wright County Board Tuesday to restate the city’s interest in a permit to discharge stormwater from a proposed industrial development into County Ditch 34.

Kern noted that this is not a new situation, and the city has been dealing with the issue for almost five years.

There have been public hearings on the subject, including one during the May 10 county board meeting, during which landowners along the ditch have had the opportunity to express their concerns.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Kern summarized activities to date and expressed the city’s interest in moving forward.

Kern said the county “wisely took action” recently when it enlisted the help of an expert to establish facts in the matter.

The report from Ron Ringquist, of Ron’s Appraisal Service, was discussed during the May 10 board meeting.

Ringquist evaluated the ditch, and the benefits associated with it.

Kern noted that the report states that the industrial park would create no increase in the rate of water entering the ditch, and, in fact, the city is proposing to decrease the runoff rate from the property.

The proposal includes almost 100 acres of wetlands and ponds to manage water, Kern said.

He added that the report does acknowledge a potential increase in the volume of water entering the ditch, but this increase is estimated at 2 to 5 percent, which Kern said is equivalent to an extra 5-gallon bucket of water for every 100 gallons of water entering the ditch.

“The city is here today asking for a permit to eventually discharge into the ditch,” Kern said.

He noted that the proposed 110 acres of developable industrial land would increase the county tax base and benefit all county taxpayers.

Kern also said it is not just the city talking about industrial development. Franklin Township also has land zoned for industrial development.

“We are asking to be treated fairly and equitably, and to be given the same opportunities,” Kern said.

The objections from landowners have centered on the poor condition of the ditch, and the cost to repair it.

Kern said the city has been willing to help pay for the repairs, but has not been able to get anyone to give it a cost for doing so.

“We are asking for something we can move forward with,” Kern said.

Delano Mayor Dale Graunke also spoke during the meeting.

He said his parents and grandparents farmed locally, and he is no stranger to the area.

Graunke said this should not be a fight between the city and the landowners.

“We are one community,” Graunke said. “The city of Delano provides services for farmers. Everybody benefits from local businesses. I don’t know why the city should be penalized, as was stated by some.”

Board Chair Jack Russek said state law says if a property has been a part of the ditch, the county (as ditch authority) must grant a discharge permit.

Regarding the condition of the ditch, Kerry Saxton of Wright Soil and Water Conservation District said there are many areas of broken tile along the ditch, but the water is still flowing. He said it may be possible to repair the ditch, but said it would be difficult to estimate the cost without getting into it.

Commissioner Pat Sawatzke expressed his opposition to allowing the city to discharge into the ditch.

“This seems like a recipe for disaster,” Sawatzke said.

Chief Deputy Attorney Brian Asleson, responding to Russek’s comment, said state law is not all that clear about whether or not the ditch authority is required to issue the permit.

“Is this the one to draw the line on and go to court over? I don’t think so,” Asleson said.

He also objected to Sawatzke’s use of the term, “disaster.”

“I’ve got a problem with that. I need more than anecdotal evidence,” Asleson said.

He added that the county needs to look at the facts.

“Has the county ever denied a request from an existing property? I don’t believe it has,” Asleson said.

“Are there conditions we can attach (to the permit) to protect the landowners? I think there are,” he continued.

Asleson recommended that the board, as ditch authority, ask the county attorney’s office to draft written findings and an order approving petition for a permit.

The board approved the recommendation on a 3-1 vote, with Russek and commissioners Dick Mattson and Elmer Eichelberg in favor, and Sawatzke opposed.

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