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County ditch system may undergo changes

Otter Tail County may be making some changes to its ditch system in the future, including combining some ditches and adding buffer strips to any ditches not already equipped with them.

Recommendations concerning the county’s 54 operational ditches were submitted to the county board of commissioners last week by County Ditch Inspector Kevin Fellbaum.

Public hearings will be held before any final decisions are made. Fellbaum said the hearings will allow county residents to obtain a better understanding of how each ditch is used, or why it’s not used. Resident input will be taken for abandonment or redetermination of certain ditches.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also becomes involved in the decision-making process when ditches serve as outlets for lakes.

One suggestion from Fellbaum calls for the county board to consider combining more ditch systems. He said there are benefits from dealing with larger amounts of benefitted areas.

Another recommendation calls for a strategy for all county ditches to have buffer strips.

“This will prevent erosion and sediment runoff from fields filling up the ditches,” said Fellbaum. “Developing buffer strips will also provide an area, in the future, when ditch cleaning needs to be done. There will be room to work.”

A major goal will include the development of an inspection schedule for ditches throughout the county.

Most of the county ditches are open channel systems, with some having various amounts of tile. In all, the ditches cover close to 300 miles in Otter Tail County.

Tom Hintgen, Otter Tail County Correspondent