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Letter: Irrigation concerns in Bonanza Valley

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Several irrigation meetings have been held this spring and early summer by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to establish control over everything about our Bonanza Valley irrigation development. They say they want to register, license, manage and control all water resources in Bonanza Valley to assure that groundwater is sustainable and does not harm ecosystems, water or the ability of future generations to meet their needs. They plan to address and control issues of overuse and contamination through permit programs and will charge for all services.

These services have been discussed repeatedly at each meeting to get comments from the public, which have mostly involved irrigating farmers.

However, looking at the agenda and attending previous meetings, I see a complete absence of concern or discussion about a most important part of irrigation development. What are the plans for every local business and the local people who work here?

In Bonanza Valley there are many more people deeply concerned about these matters than just the farmer. All small farm community towns such as Brooten, Belgrade, Villard, Westport, Cyrus and Hancock, include local businessmen and their local labor force, who grossly outnumber the farmers. Their livelihood depends greatly on the success of the irrigating farmer.

In fact, most people in these towns would not be able to live there because the towns would suffer financially and would suffer the loss of jobs without irrigation. I remember the years before irrigation when the problems of dryland farming created a poor, subsistence living and very few jobs.

In addition, the huge capital investment of an irrigation farmer could drastically cripple him or cause bankruptcy if his water supply were restricted. His future depends on two things, dependable water and dependable financing.

Concern was brought up at the last meeting by the DNR that if surface water in a creek dries up it may deprive bogs, fens, fish or insects from a water source (they freeze out in winter) and as a result, irrigation wells that draw water from an aquifer 200 feet deep may be shut down as a solution.

Charts and information have been displayed and discussed at these meetings showing that there has been very little fluctuation of aquifer levels from the droughty thirties to the present time, with or without irrigation.

Are these things more important than the livelihood of irrigators, laborers and businessmen? Do we really need this kind of DNR government control?

Editor’s Note: Bonanza Valley includes land in Stearns, Pope, Douglas and Kandiyohi counties. It is one of three pilot groundwater management areas identified by the DNR. For more information on this project visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/gwmp/area-bv.html.

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