Collaboration among agencies, local government units, and landowners is often necessary to successfully restore drained and altered wetlands across Minnesota’s varied landscape. This was the case for a recently completed Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve project located just north of Morristown, MN in Rice County. BWSR, the Rice Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the local Drainage Authority, and five landowners successfully worked together to restore a 60 acre digressional wetland basin drained by both public and private drainage tile. Despite numerous legal issues related to both the public and private drainage systems, perseverance and patience finally paid off with the project now completed.
The wetland was first drained in 1917 as part of an agricultural drainage project. A large drainage tile was installed up to the wetland basin as part of Rice County Ditch No. 15 (CD 15). In 1982, five landowners who were farming the basin entered into a private drainage agreement and installed a second drainage tile main alongside the original CD 15 tile for increased drainage capacity. These drainage systems met the needs of these five landowners for over twenty years until about 2007. At that time, it was discovered that both drainage systems within the wetland basin were in disrepair with the CD 15 system completely dysfunctional
Working with the Rice SWCD, the NRCS, and BWSR, the landowners decided rather than to repair the drainage systems the best management practice for the area was to restore the wetland basin back to its pre-drained conditions. Steps were taken by these landowners to enroll portions of their properties into the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in 2007. Thru CREP, perpetual conservation easements were secured over about 100 acres of land.
The benefits from this project include increased wildlife habitat, flood detention storage, water quality benefits, and reduced future maintenance cost on the CD 15 tile system.