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Landowners should inquire now about flood-related funding

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 10/25/2012 12:57 PM

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RICE COUNTY, Minn. — The planners of the the Rice County Conservation Tour saved the worst for last.

They showcased side inlet controls, filter strips, terraces, grassed waterways and more on the afternoon trip, but it was the washout that garnered the most attention.

The grass abruptly stopped on one side and corn on another as the soil gave way in a washout about four-feet-deep. Weeds sprouted here and there and a conifer dangled on its side. Determined corn plants grew on the bottom of the washout, no doubt transported there during the storm's aftermath.

The washout occurred June 14 when 7.13 to 8.83 inches of rain or more fell in an area of Goodhue, Rice and Dakota counties in a short period of time. From June 14-21, severe storms and flooding caused damage in several Minnesota counties, leading the state Legislature to meet in August to provide emergency disaster relief funding.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a $167 million disaster relief bill on Aug. 24. The bill includes $12.5 million for the Board of Water and Soil Resources for flood recovery projects in Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Cook, Crow Wing, Dakota, Goodhue, Itasca, Kandiyohi, Lake, Meeker, Pine, Rice, Sibley and St. Louis counties.

The flood relief package allocated $11 million for erosion, sediment and water quality control projects and $1.5 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota program. The RIM funding is to be used to purchase perpetual conservation easements on land damaged beyond repair by floodwaters.

"We want to get this money out to the affected areas as soon as possible," said John Jaschke, BWSR executive director, in a press release. "There is a lot of work that must get started soon to repair the damages inflicted by the June flood events."

The Board of Water and Soil Resources allocated $50,000 each to Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Rice and Goodhue counties and $75,000 to Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District immediately after the flooding to begin making repairs to conservation structures damaged by floodwaters and to repair flood damage to land and streams.

The Soil and Water Conservation Districts may qualify for more assistance for landowners through the state emergency funding, but first they need to hear from landowners whose property was damaged by floodwaters. SWCD staff are asking landowners to notify them by Oct. 15 if they have damage to conservation structures or their land as a result of the flooding. Farmers are likely to notice more damage as they harvest their crops.

Steve Pahs, Rice County Soil and Water Conservation District manager, said the SWCD will leverage their flood recovery allocation for restoration of the damaged spillway.

The nearby conservation dam held, but when the pond behind it filled, the water headed for the emergency spillway. The spillway had been planted to corn and failed, creating a crater and sending soil down the Spring Creek Watershed.

The conservation dam was installed in 1968, Pahs said during the Sept. 20 conservation tour. The structure crosses three properties and all owners are on board to make repairs.

The structure was installed so long ago, it's likely no one knew where the spillway was, Pahs said.