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The scar in the landscape still cuts through this corner of Lyon County where a pair of farmers dug a ditch nearly three-quarters of a mile long, toppling willows and draining a public marsh in violation of state wetland protections.

Neighboring farmers are frustrated the big drainage ditch near Marshall hasn't been fixed since it was excavated last year. Regulators say repairs are in the works and the farmers have until the end of the year to complete construction.

It's not fast enough for Bob Viaene.

Viaene, who farms just downstream from the ditch, said he can't believe that no dirt was moved all summer.

"They haven't touched a thing," Viaene said. "Everybody in the neighborhood says 'What the hell is going on?' "

The Star Tribune wrote about the situation in May, roughly six months after farmers Jance Vandelanotte and his uncle Mark Vandelanotte had a contractor with a backhoe improve drainage for them and some neighbors, including fields they had just tiled. What was supposed to be a ditch clean-out took on greater proportions than the detailed approval Jance Vandelanotte had from the Lyon County Soil and Water Conservation District, the local authority administering the state's Wetland Conservation Act and coordinating compliance.

The Vandelanottes were informed of the violation not long after the trench was dug last November, said Luke Olson, conservation technician with the Lyon County Soil and Water Conservation District. They have cooperated, he said. The ditch work seemed to be the result of a misunderstanding with the contractor, he said.

The Vandelanottes did not respond to comment requests for this story.

The state, and local governments that lead on Wetland Conservation Act compliance, take a cooperative approach to enforcing Minnesota's wetland and public waters laws. So the Lyon County Soil and Water Conservation District didn't pursue a legal restoration order, or fine or penalize the farmers for the violation. The Vandelanottes cooperated with the agency, they said, and so they made recommendations for voluntarily repairing the ditch.

Their strongest recommendation was to plug it, Olson said. They gave the Vandelanottes a technical guidance document on blocking and filling drainage ditches. Ken Powell, wetland conservation act operations supervisor with the state Board of Water and Soil Resources, said staff have been working with the contractor to assure it gets done right. If they don't, the conservation district can prepare a formal restoration order.

The Vandelanottes have until the end of the year to finish the work and indicated they want to do it as soon as possible, Olson said.

Olson said he's aware the pace has sowed some frustration.

"We've had a couple of calls regarding why it hasn't been done," Olson said. "It's ultimately their violation to correct. It's out of my control."

Terry Lange, who also farms next to the Vandelanottes, said he worries regulators might deem him to be out of compliance because the trench ran across his land and a small unnamed slough on it. The trench uprooted trees and made a mess in an area he grew up hunting in, and he wants to be sure the Vandelanottes fix that part — but said he has had no assurance they will. He said he might have to take them to small claims court if he has to do the restoration himself.

Lange said the voluntary mitigation approach feels wrong to him.

"They should have clobbered these guys right away," Lange said. "This is incredible."

There's more on the Vandelanotte's to-do list.

In May, after the snow melted, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) determined the ditching drained some of the Roggeman Marsh, a public wetland next to the farmland and the unnamed slough. That violated state public waters laws the DNR handles.

The trench removed some cattails and organic material from the shallow 25-acre public marsh, a spot enjoyed by duck hunters. The ditching didn't totally drain the marsh, but damaged its hydrology and lowered its surface water by about six inches, said Ethan Jenzen, district manager for the north district of Region 4 in the DNR's ecological and water resources division.

The DNR, which also takes the work-with-the-farmer-first approach, hasn't pursued a formal restoration order for this violation. Jenzen said the Vandelanottes agreed to install and pay for a water level control structure before the end of the year to restore the marsh basin. He estimated such structures cost on average "less than $10,000."

His group is working on the final design and plan to deliver it to the Vandelanottes "in the next couple of weeks."

If the marsh construction doesn't get done in time, "the restoration order is always something we can go to," Jenzen said.

He said the marsh remedy was delayed because the survey data to determine the impact, done in May, wasn't processed immediately. The crew involved was also dealing with gauging ice-outs on lakes. The summer season "is extremely busy," Jenzen said.

"We want to move forward as quickly as we can," Jenzen said. "This is a high priority for us."