The sky is falling — and what to do about it

By Helen McLennan, Guest Columnist

Rain, rain and more rain. Besides being a bummer for recreational activities, there are many ramifications for landowners and the landscape.

Fields are standing idle and haven’t been seeded or have been planted, but crops are being drowned. Gully erosion of cropland fields is at an epidemic level.

Lake levels are very high and shoreline owners and lake associations are concerned with damage to shorelines.

Roads are washing out and the demand on public works departments is high. The county and townships are finding it very difficult to repair and maintain the roads and the right of way ditches.

Farmers are tiling fields all over the state with little or no regard to adjacent lands or roads.

There will not be public funding to deal with many of these problems and citizens must accept a level of responsibility for their own damage.

Landowners cannot expect lower taxes and yet demand greater services. Here’s a list of how all landowners and recreational users can assist in minimizing the damage.

1. Accept that our rain events are bigger and that infrastructure, that was built many years ago, may not have the capacity to handle this much water.

2. Farmers, quit farming right up to the edge of right of ways which will reduce the amount of sediment in the ditches so the capacity to convey water is better. Consider buffer strips along all township and county roads.

Also know that you cannot lower ditch elevations or expect road culverts to be lowered to relieve the field flooding. Drainage that does exist can be maintained, but not improved, and it must be permitted. Federal Farm Program participants can lose their benefits and the Minnesota Wetland Conservation Act and Army Corps 404 authority are all factors in drainage issues.

3. Boaters, be considerate and prevent wake damage to lake and river shores by reducing your speed dramatically within 300-600 feet of the shoreline.

4. If you have wet basements, consider having tile lines installed 1-2 feet below your basement level and install pumping systems to take that water to storm sewers. If you are not in a city to have that ability, then work with professionals on a suitable outlet for the water.

5. Quit blaming the townships and the county for culvert levels. Their obligation is to maintain good and safe roads, not to assist you in getting rid of your water faster. Even where they might be able to assist, understand that it may be at your expense and not the taxpayers.

6. Understand that what you do may be affecting your neighbor. Work as a team to solve problems to avoid legal conflict.

7. Be aware that all agencies have limited staff and may not get to you immediately with the demand created by these unusually wet conditions.

In summary, the Minnesota Meteorologist states that these big storm events may be the new norm for now and into the future. How we deal with it won’t be cheap or easy. Everyone agrees that it’s a tough spring and the problems are compounding.


Helen McLennan is with the Morrison Soil and Water Conservation District.