“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Near Jackson in Jackson County, Minnesota — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

Government Ditches

The Draining of Minnesota

Government Ditches Marker image. Click for full size.
By Phyllis Prats, May 4, 2015
1. Government Ditches Marker
Inscription.  Drainage of surface water is vital to all aspects of development, from town sites to agricultural crop land. Its importance, impact, and consequences cannot be over stated. With the western expansion of the United States, swamp lands. as they were called, or vegetated wetlands were found to cover over 215 million acres of land. In Minnesota this approximated one-fifth of the land available for use.

Traveling across Minnesota it is not uncommon to see V shaped ditches along the roadside. These are ma-made ditches, dug to drain excess water from the land. It was not until 1893, that the first such ditches were dug in the Red River Valley, with the formation of the Red River Drainage Commission. Initially the ditches were constructed by the State and the counties were required to maintain and repair them. Between 1900 and 1915 numerous drainage ditches, were constructed, the demand for such projects lessened, however, as a result of World War I. and the depression. By the late 1930s, demand for new ditches and repairs to existing ones was on the rise. Legislative changes in the 40s, authorized by district courts, hence came the common
Government Ditches Marker image. Click for full size.
By Phyllis Prats, May 4, 2015
2. Government Ditches Marker
name “Judicial Ditches,” and county boards to establish the drainage systems, and the State and township authority was removed.

The impact and extensive use of ditches and drain tile in Minnesota that followed can be illustrated in the Minnesota River Basin where only 58.3% of the land is considered well drained, however, by use of ditches and tiling, an additional 1,925,672, acres (20.2%) has been made more productive.

Since the 1950s, there has been increased emphasis on the environmental and conservation effects of drainage projects. This is reflected in recent State and Federal legislation. This concern must be balanced against the three categories of drainage projects, new systems, repairs, and improvements. One can easily understand the complexity and the controversy associated with ditches.
Erected 1998 by The Minnesota Historical Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: EnvironmentMan-Made Features.
Location. 43° 38.418′ N, 95° 1.211′ W. Marker is near Jackson, Minnesota, in Jackson County. Marker can be reached from Interstate 90 at milepost 72 west of U.S. 71, on the right when traveling west. It is at the Des Moines River Rest Stop, reachable only when traveling
Drainage Ditch Cross-section image. Click for full size.
Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (CC 4.0) via Wikipedia Commons
3. Drainage Ditch Cross-section
westbound on I-90. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Jackson MN 56143, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 1 other marker is within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. History In The Soil (approx. 3.2 miles away).
Also see . . .  Conventional vs. Two-Stage Drainage Ditch (Wikipedia Entry). Excerpt:
The issue faced by Minnesota’s channel management systems concerns the implementation of traditional ditch systems that were used to straighten what were once headwaters streams, disrupting the fluvial processes of the hydrological system. In fact, more than 25,000 miles of these traditional drainage ditch lines exist along agricultural fields in Minnesota, particularly in the South East in parts of the Upper Mississippi River. The Nature Conservancy’s investigation into the Minnesota region affirmed the above limitations of traditional drainage management above, finding that these deep and wide conventional ditches are highly susceptible to erosion and sedimentation, hindering the stability of the ditch, finding excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in streams which culminate in eutrophication, in addition to increased flooding. [Richard] Biske affirmed [Brad] Hansen’s view that once such ditches are channelized and constructed, attempting to return the channels to their natural fluvial processes and meandering
Government Ditches Marker at Rest Stop image. Click for full size.
By Phyllis Prats, May 4, 2015
4. Government Ditches Marker at Rest Stop
nature results in exacerbated erosion and sediment deposition.
(Submitted on February 7, 2021.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 7, 2021. It was originally submitted on February 7, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 35 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on February 7, 2021, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
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Feb. 28, 2021