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Posted on May 14, 2019 at 5:19 PM by Ryan Hiniker
Drainage update 5/13/2019
Upcoming Drainage Hearings or Meetings:
Quiet week in the world of drainage locally. The wet weather from last week has slowed down everyone that works outside. Locally I recorded 1.6 inches of rain in the Mankato area. I have had reports from the Mapleton and St. Clair areas of around 1.9 inches from last week's rains. We who work outdoors are all struggling to get things done this spring. Many of our repairs are carry-overs from last year, 2018.
I know many growers are feeling the frustration of not being able to get corn planted, especially when it’s a month later than normal corn planting time. What’s normal anymore though? Every year is wet, some worse or better than the others. Is this the new normal - the above average rainfalls and flooding rivers and streams that come both fall and spring? We are seeing a large number of tile failures this spring, as to be expected with our aging infrastructure. When I say failure, I don’t mean the system isn’t working, but more intermittent tile collapses.
Many of our open ditch systems are having issues with side bank sloughs. I often hear the expression from people, “We’ve never had issues there before," or "We’ve never seen it do that before.” Those people are completely right, we probably haven’t seen issues like we are seeing now and in the past couple years on many of our drainage systems. Let's stop and reflect on why we might be seeing these issues. We’ve had three or four FEMA events in our county in the last three years. We have been in very wet weather patterns spring and fall for pretty much the last three years.
I am not an engineer or scientist of any sort. I believe some of our issues are both man-made and natural. Natural issues would include above average rainfalls in the last few years. Our water table, or ground water, is elevated and stays elevated longer. We used to have periods of heavy rains or seasonable flooding, followed by some dry periods that would equal out the local water tables. We aren’t getting those dry spells like we had before, and our rains are multiple inches at a time.
Some of the man-made issues I believe that are changing our water landscape include more development (cities and subdivisions), system tiling in agriculture, more impervious(hard) surfaces and less natural ponding areas for storm water. We often will get the comment, "I have more standing water out on my property than ever, and it's system tiled." In theory, that is correct, it should be better, not wetter. I often tell people, think of a new system tile designed to drain ½ inch of acre feet of water per day. Now think about that new system tile being hooked into an old turn-of-the century drainage system that was designed for 1/8 inch of acre feet of water per day or less, that it would drain. To make a mental picture, it’s like a fire hose being connected to a garden hose.
The point I'm trying to illustrate is that our old drainage systems aren’t keeping up with the speed of technology, in most cases. Many of these old county drainage systems are working as well as they can, but they can’t keep up with the modern demand. Improvements of drainage systems is a way of updating and trying to keep up with the modern day demands of agricultural drainage.
We are trying to store more water and reduce downstream impacts with every new improvement we do by implementing ponding areas.
Photo taken on JD48, near Lake Crystal.
Recent Drainage Inspections – week of May 6 – May 10:
Last weeks weed quiz answer is: Scouring Rush, which is part of the horsetail family. Did you get it right? This is becoming a very common weed in southern Minnesota and can be sometimes difficult to manage.
We are seeing a fairly large amount of tile repairs coming in this time of year. The unfortunate thing is we are still trying to work through our repair list from last year, 2018. Please report issues you see on our public drainage systems, whether it’s a tile system or an open ditch system. The repairs are usually fixed in the order they are received, so please don’t wait to let us know about issues you observe on public drainage systems, as the list grows daily.
We require that all repairs to a county drainage system (tile or open ditch) be authorized by one us in the drainage office, either Craig or myself, before any repairs are made.
Drainage Management Specialist