Scott Gillespie, a Bois de Sioux Watershed District board member, stood near the bottom of Traverse County Ditch 37’s Lateral 1, where a Clean Water Fund grant covered clean-water aspects of the district’s first ditch retrofit. (Photo: Ann Wessel, BWSR)

The Bois de Sioux Waterched District’s first ditch retrofit – on Traverse County Ditch 37 near Wheaton – could be the first of many such retrofits designed to alleviate flooding on farm fields and improve water quality in rivers and streams.

The watershed spans 1,400 square miles in parts of six west-central Minnesota counties: Traverse, Wilkin, Grant, Stevens, Big Stone and Otter Tail. The Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers join to become the Red River at Breckenridge. There had been no maintenance on the ditch since it was dug, and it had reached the point where it was poorly functioning.

Farmer Scott Gillespie, who is on the Watershed District board, described the $637,000 project.

Less in-channel erosion will mean less maintenance and less cost to landowners. Ditch clean-outs average about $6,750 a mile and were necessary every five to seven years. The retrofit will keep an estimated 340 tons of sediment – about 26 dump trucks’ worth – out of the ditch and downstream waters.

Part of the funding for the project came from a $135,000 Clean Water Fund grant from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources. The 30-plus landowners whose nearly five thousand acres of cropland benefit from the entire Traverse County Ditch 37 project will pay over $500,000 in taxes levied by the watershed district over 15 years.

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