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Fairmont considers dredging Dutch Creek

FAIRMONT–

The Fairmont City Council discussed dredging the mouth of Dutch Creek during the bi-weekly city council meeting Monday night. Several motions to take action were made, but all ultimately failed.

“At our last meeting we heard a presentation from the Lakes Foundation… and at the end of the presentation they talked about dredging the mouth of Dutch Creek and as the conversation has continued, staff put this on the agenda,” said city administrator Cathy Reynolds.

She said city staff is focusing on the upstream issues and as results come in, action can be taken downstream at the mouth, which is where the work would have a longer-lasting impact.

She said city staff has talked to the DNR, who would permit the project, though costs would be associated with the survey and construction plan for dredging the mouth.

Council member Wayne Hasek said he doesn’t think the project would do any good right now with the current low levels of the lakes.

Council member Britney Kawecki said she’s been in contact with Dan Girolamo with the DNR, as well as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. She said Girolamo does recommend dredging the creek for public safety.

“In 2018, Mr. Girolamo actually asked Mr. (Mike) Humpal to start the process of the survey and I have a copy of that email, just to get an idea of how long it took the amount of sediment to form there because I think that’s the number one question. How long did it take the sentiment to form there,” said Kawecki.

Kawecki said she thinks a core sample is needed. She said she thinks a survey should be started to see how much sediment needs to be removed and how many years it has taken to form.

“I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request. I think because it’s never been done before,” said Kawecki.

She acknowledged that a habitat project is taking place upstream right now, but she said when the water slows down, the sediment drops to the ground, and so does the phosphate, nitrates and the e-coli.

Kawecki said taking action is important because in a report from the MPCA, it says Martin County has excessively high phosphate and nitrate levels due to the run off from Dutch Creek, which runs through farm land.

“The problem is the toxins are in the sediment. It’s not in the water, it’s in the sediment,” Kawecki said.

She said she’s not asking to dredge the lakes, but to do the survey to see how much sediment is in the lakes. She said there are concerns for the drinking water and the safety of swimming in the lakes.

Mayor Deb Foster asked city engineer Troy Nemmers if he’s confident with what Fairmont has been doing regarding water quality.

“From a water quality perspective we’ve monitored the water quality. The habitat project was intended to be one small piece of that solution within the Dutch Creek watershed. Unfortunately the 90 percent of the watershed is not within the city of Fairmont’s city limits, and that’s where we’re partnering with (Martin) Soil and Water,” Nemmers said.

Foster asked whether staff recommends dredging Dutch Creek.

“The question to me is, is dredging, what benefit is that for the dollars spent? That’s the question and right now we don’t see a significant benefit in doing that,” said Nemmers.

Council Member Randy Lubenow asked if they could take advantage of the lower water levels and get some core samples in order to obtain some data.

Council member Bruce Peters asked whether Reynolds and Kawecki are talking to the same people at the DNR.

“It is the same individual. He’s not going to tell you no you can’t do it or no you shouldn’t do it,” said Reynolds.

Reynolds said she was told the benefit to dredging would be aesthetic.

Council member Michele Miller pointed out that just because they do a survey doesn’t mean they have to dredge the mouth of Dutch Creek.

Foster asked Nemmers what the cost to do a survey would be and Nemmers said it would be dependent on how much information would be needed.

“My question will continue to be, there’s no benefit so why do we freighter away the money,” said Peters.

Lubenow asked what’s wrong with collecting data, to which Foster said the cost is the problem. She asked if council would like to proceed or let it be.

Peters read a statement from the DNR: “Dredging Dutch Creek will have little impact on water quality and the growth of blue-green algae seen in the lakes this year,” said Peters.

Kawecki made a motion to begin the permitting process and core sampling of the mouth of Dutch Creek.

Lubenow seconded the motion. Hasek said he would like to see the cost first, which Miller agreed with. Hasek, Miller and Peters voted no and the motion failed.

Lubenow made a new motion to get a quote for beginning the permitting process and getting core samples. Kawecki seconded the motion.

“Until the DNR or somebody says there could be any benefit, I don’t see any reason to freighter away even staff money and time to go there,” Peters said.

Lubenow said that where the drinking water is concerned it justifies some expense. Miller asked whether the drinking water is compromised.

Peters, Miller and Hasek voted no and the motion failed.

In other news,

— Nemmers shared that the City of Fairmont was awarded the Dave Neiman Memorial Source Water Protection Award by the Minnesota Rural Water Association and Minnesota Department of Health for efforts to identify an reduce nitrates affecting the Fairmont water supply.

— The council approved a conditional use permit for Kwik Trip at 217 South State Street to increase its footprint by a third and add additional parking spaces.

— The council recognized Officer Shannon Bass for serving 20 years with the Fairmont Police Department. Bass has served the last three years as a school resource officer at Fairmont High School.

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