Attorney Kale Van Bruggen of Rinke Noonan represents Stevens County. (Photo: Marshall Hoffman)

A petition filed by the Izaak Walton League has sparked a rare Environmental Assessment Worksheet process for planned improvements to Stevens County Ditch 18. Attorney Kale Van Bruggen with the Rinke Noonan law firm detailed the situation to the Stevens County Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting Tuesday, which was summarized by County Coordinator Rebecca Young on the KMRS Community Connection program.

“This is really an interesting situation,” said Young. “Kale’s comment from the Board meeting was that in the State of Minnesota, to his knowledge and to some of the other legal attorneys he works with — some of his colleagues — that there hasn’t been an EAW petition on a public ditch system in the State of Minnesota. So, this is kind of a first. We don’t know what it’s going to cost and that’s a cost borne by the landowners of the system. So, that’s a concern, as well.”

The environmental concern has to do with a possible negative cumulative impact downstream of discharge of water to the overall system. The Ditch 18 project involves it getting bigger and deeper, but Young noted that engineers have compensated for that in their plans so that there is no net increase in the outflow. Nevertheless, the engineering concerns need to be addressed, and the Board appointed ISG to handle that, and appointed Rinke Noonan to address any legal concerns, all of which add to the cost of the project. The County has 30 days to respond to the petition. A public meeting on the issue will be held 9 a.m. October 29 at the Stevens County Courthouse.

The Board also approved a redetermination of the Ditch 18 project, which had to do with addressing previous comments from the public and making any necessary changes.

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In other County Ditch business, bids from Riley Brothers Construction were approved to clean Ditch 4 for $11,000, and Ditch 1, a more extensive job for $71,000.

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