Mud Creek project plan delivered to state board

Farm Forum

PIERRE — A state board received the plan on Sept. 24 for removing sediment and obstructions along 36 miles of Mud Creek in Brown and Spink counties.

The total price as estimated by consulting firm Helms and Associates is $65 million. That would pay for dredging 18.5 miles, taking out various man-made crossings, cleaning out trees and brush and eliminating eight beaver dams.

The goal is to improve the flow of the creek, starting at S.D. State Highway 37 near Groton and continuing downstream to the James River.

The project’s supporters created the Brown County Mud Creek watershed district in 2012. A $30,000 state loan, since repaid, was used for the Helms study.

The state Board of Water and Natural Resources accepted the plan on Sept. 24, voting 4-0 to recognize that the laws were properly followed and the plan contains the required ingredients.

The next step is to find funding for the work.

The watershed district board’s chairman, Roger Rix of Groton, spoke to the state board.

“We were kind of inventing the wheel, I believe. We didn’t have any form to follow from another district,” Rix said.

The James River water development district’s leadership receives updates monthly, he said, and assisted in putting the plan together.

Paul Gnirk, a state board member from New Underwood who has taught at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, said the beaver dams were present long before people moved to the area.

“I happen to like beavers,” Gnirk said. He questioned whether removing beaver dams returns the creek to its natural state.

Rix replied there is siltation above and below the dams.

“There is some significant areas where there is trees, brush, and so forth that has fallen in,” Rix said.

Various road crossings and some rock crossings are present too, he said. “A 2-foot rise will back water up 3 miles,” he said.

Gnirk responded that “without question” the water flows very slowly because the generally topography falls less than 1 inch per mile.

Gnirk then asked about offsetting farming-caused sedimentation.

Rix didn’t answer directly.

“There’s more survey to be done,” Rix said.

He noted the bulk of the sedimentation seems to be in the tributaries of Mud Creek.

Rix said that as the watershed district grows “we will gradually branch out into other areas of concern … There is going to be a pretty steep learning curve for all of us.”

He continued, “We’re incrementally looking at the whole area and whatever decisions we make going forward will be very prudent on using the funding.”

Follow @pierremercer on Twitter.