FERGUS FALLS -- Much work is needed before construction of a new outlet at Nelson Lake, west of Parkers Prairie. Nelson Lake is a landlocked lake.

The county board of commissioners, on Tuesday, April 28, approved a contract for preliminary studies by Fargo-based Houston Engineering.

Original plans called for making use of current Ditch 45. However, at a public meeting in September, it was determined this was not a viable option. In preceding months high water has adversely affected Highway 6 near the north side of Nelson Lake. Flooding of nearby croplands also has taken place.

A petition for a new outlet running southward from Nelson Lake to nearby Fish Lake was submitted to the board of commissioners.

A public meeting will be in late summer or early fall.

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“The last time a new county ditch system was built was in 1923,” said County Ditch Inspector Kevin Fellbaum.

He provided a list of studies that will be conducted by Houston Engineering, including determining where the best corridor would be to build the tile system, survey work, construction and cost/benefit analysis:

  • Design: pipe size, structures, lake elevation level
  • Permitting: obtain permits from agencies
  • Environmental impacts: downstream (can the receiving water bodies handle more water)
  • Water quality: (are we moving clean or dirty water)
  • Aquatic invasive species: will there need to be measures put in place to mitigate the movement of aquatic invasive species
  • Operating plans: put in place a schedule on when water can be moved
  • Lake level: what elevation is best for Nelson Lake to be maintained at for the health of the lake and for those around it
  • Benefit determination: work with the county ditch viewing team to determine what benefits are derived from building this system

“Once those studies are completed, we will hold a public hearing to hear from the benefited property owners to see if the project should proceed with all the data presented,” Fellbaum said.

He said that if the project has a green light after the hearing, Houston Engineering will proceed with final design, obtain permits, initiate bid letting and proceed with right-of-way acquisition.