By Tom Hintgen

Otter Tail County Correspondent

Kevin Fellbaum

County commissioners, on Oct. 26, voted to proceed with a cautious approach to cleaning Ditch 25 near Big McDonald Lake, northwest of Dent and close to County Highway 35.

Key issues are water quality and water quantity.

Property owners north of Highway 35 would like to see Ditch 25 cleaned south of Highway 35, in order to make sure water can continue to flow through the ditch system.

Property owners close to Big McDonald Lake have concerns about poor water quality coming from the north. The lake area residents want to see a vegetative filter in place along the ditch system.

“This has been an area of concern for many years,” said county ditch director Kevin Fellbaum. “That’s why we are taking baby steps in proceeding forward in order to restore the ditch to a more functional state. At the same time we will make sure that we are aware of the water quality concerns.”

Fellbaum said the county also wants to make sure that it is accomplishing a project that does not negatively impact anyone.

“This project was discussed and accepted by both parties, the property owners to the north of Highway 35 and the residents near Big McDonald Lake,” Fellbaum said.

  County commissioners followed a ditch inspector’s recommendation to perform brush removal only, as a first step, south of Highway 35. 

Only chain saws and hand tools will be used while removing any brush or trees that have fallen down or are in the channel of Ditch 25. No mechanical work will be conducted, at this time.

Living trees and brush on the banks of the ditch corridor will be left in place in order to maintain the vegetative bank. 

A drainage system representative will be onsite when the work is being done to verify what can and what cannot be removed.

County ditches are regulated by the County Ditch Authority which is comprised of the five-person Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.

The five county commissioners (Wayne Johnson of Pelican Rapids, Dan Bucholz of Perham, Betty Murphy of Maine Township, Kurt Mortenson of rural Underwood and Lee Rogness of Fergus Falls) manage the systems according to Minnesota State Statute 103E.

The Ditch Authority is responsible for maintaining and repairing a drainage system as nearly comparable to the original design as possible.

Repairs are determined to take place by requests from the benefitted property owners of that ditch or by the annual inspections performed by county ditch inspectors.