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Ditch 25 options aired by county board

Possible repairs or improvements to Ditch 25, related to a planned water outlet route west of Perham, were discussed in depth Tuesday during a meeting of the Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners.

Various options were reviewed, but no final decisions were made.

Pending approval of the county board, work along the ditch may take place at two ditch branches near Round Lake and the north side of Star Lake, west of Dent.

Based on conversation on Tuesday, it’s likely the county board will, at the very least, approve re-determination of the legal grade of Ditch 25.

“The vertical reference points that were used to originally construct the ditch, back in 1907, no longer exist,” said Blake Carlson of Widseth Smith Nolting and Associates, out of Crookston, Minn., who addressed the board Tuesday.

“To re-establish the legal grade of the ditch, additional survey data needs to be acquired,” said Carlson. “In addition, soil borings along the ditch would be needed. This would identify the original depth.”

He added, “An improvement of the ditch, in my opinion, should only be considered if the repaired ditch would not provide acceptable results. The best option may be to maintain the ditch, as it exists today, if it is performing satisfactorily for the present benefited landowners.”

County commissioners said they want to take a step back, review all options, and make final decisions later this spring.

“We need to be cognizant of possible problems downstream,” said Commission Chairperson Wayne Johnson. “The ordinary high water levels also need to be addressed. Culvert changes could affect high water marks.”

There’s also a need to work in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Johnson added.

The outlet route has been approved by the county board but still requires approval of a fee payment plan.

The route would extend in a southwesterly direction. Water would discharge from Little McDonald Lake to Berger Lake, in turn flowing through Big McDonald, Round, Star, Dead, Walker and Otter Tail lakes before flowing into the Otter Tail River.

The water level on Little McDonald Lake has been steadily rising over the years,

and high water has become a problem for lake residents. Talk of using Ditch 25 as a drainage system reached the county board a few years ago, but uncertainty, environmental reviews, court appeals and other delays have continuously pushed off any firm decisions.

Since Ditch 25 was constructed in 1907, only minimal repairs have been made.

“The question of the need for repair or improvement of Ditch 25 in relation to the proposed outlet comes down to capacity,” said Carlson. “The more (water) capacity, the more that can be discharged from the outlet.”