A CONTRACTOR uses a jet vac to clean out a plugged tile line east of Co. Rd. 15. (Submitted photo.)

Rain causing big ditch issues

Staff Writer
Ken Francis
Sherburne County has dozens of ditches that help drain thousands of acres of property throughout the county.
But with all the rain this year, lots of those ditches have been filled with water. Spring thaw combined with heavy spring rains has kept the water flowing almost constantly.
Ditch Inspector Mike Lindenau says it’s been one of the wettest springs ever.
“It’s a lot more than normal,” he says. “I’ve heard we’ve had 20 to 25 inches throughout the county. I’ve heard it was the second wettest in history.”
Spring officially ended last weekend. But the rain hasn’t. And there have been lots of reports of flooding in farm fields, yards, basements and on some roads.
“I’ve been doing this for four years now and I’ve had more phone calls this spring than I’ve ever had,” says Lindenau. 
Many county ditches are concentrated in Elk River, Becker, Big Lake and Santiago Twp. The county is constantly maintaining the ditches to keep water flowing and keep fields from turning into ponds.
“It’s very important to have the ditches cleaned out so they can carry more water,” says Lindenau. “If you have two feet of sediment built up in the ditch, it’s just pushing the water that much higher.”
In addition to sediment, trees and brush growing in a ditch can constrict water flow. Plugged culverts, beaver dams and collapsed tile lines can also lead to flooded fields.
Lindenau says a plugged tile line east of Co. Rd. 15 saturated a property owner’s drain field. It had to be cleaned with a jet sprayer, which can reach up to 700 feet.
Often, the county will hire a trapper totrap beavers, or dig up a field and replace a broken section of underground tile to keep water flowing. That can be costly, and every property owner on the ditch line has to share the cost.
But this spring, much of the flooding hasn’t been caused by maintenance issues. Sometimes the ground is still frozen and water can’t penetrate. This  year the frost was very deep and stayed a long time. But the main cause has been too much rain.
“A flooded ditch doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem. A lot of times it’s just high water,” says Lindenau. “It’s not going to disappear overnight. It takes some time to go away. Ditches fill up. They go down, we get another rain and they fill right back up.”
The groundwater level is so high in some areas from all the rain, it’s going to take a long time for some people’s basements to dry out.
Usually by July, the weather turns drier and stays that way through the summer. That’s when basements dry, ditches empty and Lindenau says most of the phone calls stop.
But it may take a little longer this year.
The weather forecast shows rain every day until Wednesday.


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