Wetlands in flood project delineated

by April Scheinoha

Another task has been checked off of the list for the Red Lake Watershed District. At its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 27, the Pennington County Board approved a wetland delineation and replacement plan for the Westside Flood Damage Reduction Project.

As part of the plan, 2.98 acres of wetlands will need to be replaced. Those wetland bank credits need to be purchased to replace impacts for the RLWD project that will provide additional flood protection for the City of Thief River Falls and surrounding area.

Commissioners were concerned about the amount of acres recommended for replacement by the Technical Evaluation Panel. Commissioner Don Jensen said the TEP needs to take incidental wetlands more seriously. At some point, he said, incidental wetlands will no longer be considered incidental. In particular, Jensen was referring to the TEP determination that an area near a railroad bed needed to be replaced.

While stating their concerns, commissioners noted they knew their decision impacted the project timeline. County Board Chairperson Bruce Lawrence said, “By the same token, we don’t want to be the ones to hold this project up.”

Construction is expected to begin this fall on two portions of the estimated $4.6 million project – the installation of box culverts adjacent to Highways 1 and 32 and the construction of a diversion channel outlet beginning at the Red Lake River and then upstream to Highway 32. As noted in its application, the RLWD wrote, “County Ditch 1 will be rerouted from County State Aid Highway 7 and Highway 32 to the proposed diversion channel. The diversion channel will then be constructed from CSAH 7 upstream to Pennington County Road 62.”

In 2020, as part of the project, the diversion channel will be constructed between County Road 62 and 120th Avenue Northeast. At that time, any other needed diversion channel excavation work will be completed. Several adjacent ditches will be regraded within the city and some storm sewer will be installed at that time. Construction is expected to be completed by fall 2020.

Commissioners rejected hosting the city volleyball league. The City of Thief River Falls no longer wishes to host the league and asked County Board if the county would like to do so.

By a vote of 3 to 1, County Board approved selling 2.96 acres of wetland bank credits to Stuart Christian. Commissioner Neil Peterson voted in opposition, stating he was voting that way on principle. County Board chairpeople generally don’t vote unless there is a tie.

Christian is buying the credits for a project in Section 28 of Liberty Township, Polk County. It is believed that Christian was ordered to buy wetland bank credits as a result of a violation. The cost is $18,000 per credit.

Pennington Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Bryan Malone presented the SWCD’s proposed 2020 budget to the county. The SWCD is requesting an additional $4,320 from the county for a total appropriation of $112,320 in 2020. County Board took the request under advisement.

As part of his budget presentation, Malone noted that the SWCD plans to utilize Northland Community and Technical College drones to analyze 53 outlets over a three-year period. This analysis will enable the SWCD to prioritize erosion control projects.

Malone also referred to three riverbank stabilization projects that will be undertaken by the SWCD. They include projects at Hartz Park, the Greenwood Street bridge and across from Oakland Park, all in Thief River Falls.

County Board approved purchasing new body armor for five sheriff’s deputies. The body armor will cost $6,636. Chief Deputy Seth Vettleson noted that the state will reimburse most of that amount.

Jim Trojanowski, director of the Northwest Regional Library System, appeared before County Board to request an increase in its appropriation. He requested an increase of $3,376 for 2020, which means the county would pay $115,895. Trojanowski indicated that the system didn’t seek an increase for 2019.

Commissioner Cody Hempel requested that Trojanowski provide the County Board with its actual profit and loss statements, and the County Board took the request under advisement.

The system is seeking a 3% increase from all five counties and nine cities served by the system. The increases are being sought for several reasons. Trojanowski noted that the system hasn’t received an increase in state aid for about 12 years and the system has used its reserves to balance its budget for the last three years.

County Board approved appointing Peterson and Hempel to the Economic Development Committee. They will serve on the committee along with representatives of the Thief River Falls City Council to discuss how to move forward with economic development in the area.

Advance Thief River and Jobs Inc. are seeking $25,000 each from the county, the city and Jobs Inc. for economic development efforts in 2020. County commissioners have taken the request under advisement. Advance Thief River and Jobs Inc. representatives also appeared before a Thief River Falls city committee to make their request. Lawrence said the council has already included the request in its budget.

“One of the main questions I have is, ‘How do you judge or grade or how do you determine it’s working?’” Lawrence said.

Ranae and Robert Davidson appeared before County Board to raise concerns about mobile home taxes for a property. Ranae Davidson said $326.34 was taken out of her state tax refund in 2015 and $69.04 was taken this year for the mobile home taxes apparently owed on the property.

Robert Davidson said the property is “allegedly” in his name, but it belongs to his father and was abandoned more than 10 years ago. His wife said her name isn’t on the property. She indicated that the county has determined there is no value to the property, and the home has mold.

“Let us do a little bit of homework here, and we’ll get back to you,” Lawrence told the Davidsons.

The next County Board meeting is scheduled Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. at the Justice Center.


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