This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).




In Re: the Matter of Red Lake

Watershed Project #119.

Filed May 5, 1997


Amundson, Judge

Polk County District Court

File No. C2951424

Delray Sparby, Ihle & Sparby, P.A., 312 North Main Avenue, P.O. Box 574, Thief River Falls, MN 56701 (for appellant)

Greg Widseth, Odland, Fitzgerald, Reynolds & Remick, P.L.L.P., 2011/2 North Broadway, P.O. Box 457, Crookston, MN 56716 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Amundson, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Harten, Judge.



Appellant Red Lake Watershed District challenges the district court's interpretation of Minn. Stat. § 103E.525 that the respondent Roome Township is entitled to construction cost damages for replacing existing culverts necessitated by a watershed project. We affirm.


On June 7, 1995, pursuant to statute, viewers issued a report on the benefits and damages of watershed district project #119. That project, a ditch, crossed a township road, necessitating the replacement of existing culverts. The viewers did not award damages for constructing the new culverts. Respondent Roome Township appealed to the district court arguing that the viewers should have included the costs of culvert construction as township damages. Appellant Red Lake Watershed District unsuccessfully argued that the township was responsible for the costs; the district court held the township was entitled to the cost of culvert construction. Following a stipulation to the cost of construction, the district court awarded the township $53,037.35. The watershed district appealed.


This court does not need to defer to the district court's interpretation of law if no material facts are disputed. Hubred v. Control Data Corp., 442 N.W.2d 308, 310 (Minn. 1989). Statutory construction is a question of law and is fully reviewable by this court. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).

The watershed district argues that, in order to spread the costs of maintaining a public roadway over the general public, the township is responsible for the costs associated with constructing culverts required by the project. We disagree.

The road authority, here the township, is required to construct and maintain bridges and culverts required by a drainage project. Minn. Stat § 103E.525, subd. 2 (1996). If a road authority does not complete construction within the required time, the drainage authority, here the watershed district, may order the construction to be completed and will deduct the cost of the construction from any damages awarded to the authority arising from the project. Minn. Stat § 103E.525, subd. 3 (1996). The viewers are required to determine the benefits and damages to all property affected by the proposed drainage project. Minn. Stat. § 103E.311 (1996). Their report must include "the amount that each tract or lot will be benefited or damaged." Minn. Stat. § 103E.321, subd. 1(11) (1996). The viewers' report also must include a statement for each property owner that identifies "the benefits or damages from the proposed drainage project." Minn. Stat. § 103E.321, subd. 2(3) (1996). The cost of construction, however, is not specifically identified as damage. The viewers did not consider the costs of construction for the culverts in damages awarded to the township. One viewer testified that they did not do so because the construction costs were not in the statutory factors. However, in Town of Lisbon v. Yellow Medicine and Lac Qui Parle Counties, 142 Minn. 299, 303, 172 N.W. 125, 127 (1919), the supreme court stated:

The damages which a town is entitled to on account of bridges in such drainage proceeding is the cost of the construction and maintenance of the bridges provided for in the engineer's report, less the value of the wreckage from the bridges to be replaced, such cost of construction and maintenance to be determined primarily by the viewers, and finally, if demanded, by a jury.

See also In re Judicial Ditch No. 24, 161 Minn. 517, 518, 200 N.W. 816, 817 (1924) ("The statute intends that the township or other municipality shall construct a bridge made necessary by a ditch, and that damages shall be awarded because it must do so.")

Both Town of Lisbon and Judicial Ditch No. 24 were decided when the relevant statute contained express language assessing as damages the costs of construction required by the drainage project. See Minn. Gen. Stat. § 5528 (1913) ("the viewers shall also report * * * the damages awarded * * * from the necessary construction and maintenance of any bridges, culverts, or other works rendered necessary"). This statute was changed and subdivided in 1947 and no longer contains the express language regarding construction costs. 1947 Minn. Laws ch. 143, § 14. However, in 1951, the supreme court addressed a situation where a county ditch required a private individual to build a bridge. In re Dreosch, 233 Minn. 200, 46 N.W.2d 464 (1951). There, the supreme court upheld a jury verdict awarding damages for, in part, the costs of constructing a bridge where "(t)here was a wide variation in the testimony of the witnesses as to the cost of building a suitable bridge or crossing." Dreosch, 233 Minn. at 204, 46 N.W.2d at 466. Although the supreme court did not cite the statute, this language simply suggests that damages include costs of construction. See Oelke v. County of Faribault, 260 Minn. 361, 366, 110 N.W.2d 145, 148 (1961) (concluding appellant failed to show benefits of drainage project were less than project costs and damages; damages included costs for repairing or improving bridges included as damages). The district court correctly interpreted the statute.