Hoeft honored for years on watershed board

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 6/23/98.

When he started serving on the board, his goal was to get more water storage in the district. Eldon Hoeft, 76, rural Hawick, didnt reach his goal, but he saw a lot of other changes take place within the North Fork Crow River Watershed District (NFCRWD).

Eldon Hoeft retired from the watershed district board in May after serving 12 years as a manager. I should have been off three years ago, Hoeft said of the term limits. He considered himself one of the least valuable members on the board. The board members thought differently. They considered Eldon the districts history book.

He has also served 15 years as a Roseville Township supervisor and 24 years on the Paynesville Area School Board. Between my uncle, Emit Nehring, and myself, we served 60 years as the school board clerk, Hoeft said proudly.

Upon his retirement from the NFCRWD board he was presented with a plaque for perfect attendance. He added that in his 15 years with the township, he only missed one meeting and that was because of a snowstorm.

I served with 11 different managers over the years, Hoeft said. The NFCRWD was formed in 1985 and it took quite a while to get the overall plan developed. The watershed district is 38 miles long and extends from Manannah to Grove Lake. The district covers 348 square miles and includes 48 miles of river.

Hoeft identifies himself as a long-time water conservationist. I have always practiced crop rotation and water conservation where possible, he said.

Ruth Hoeft, Eldons wife, said the hardest part of water conservation is educating the people not to waste water.

Hoeft has always been concerned about people wasting water. Someday well probably run out of water because of the wastefulness of some people, he added.

Fifty years ago you wouldnt recognize the river that you see today. The river has more than doubled in width as it washes and erodes the banks. Where the river washes out the bank in one place it piles up the dirt in another area, changing the appearance of the river, he added.

The North Fork Crow River is in an entirely different spot than it was 30 years ago, Hoeft said. He feels the river has moved over more than the width of the river. It will take a lot of material and funding to save the river banks from eroding further, he added.

Hoeft felt the work of the NFCRWD has improved the quality of the lake water on both Rice Lake and Lake Koronis. When the watershed district was formed they had two goals, water quality and flood control, he added.

He said flood control hasnt been too successful yet as too many farmers drained wetlands to farm the land which added that much more pressure upon the river. It disturbs me when a farmer tiles every inch of his land so it is farmable, then floods out his neighbors, Hoeft added.

A lot of times I have 75 acres under water because the river cant handle a heavy rain or snow melt, Hoeft said.

Among the projects the watershed district had under way last year was helping farmers construct manure storage pits to prevent run-off into the river and lakes.

Since he has been on the watershed board, Hoeft has kept track of the rainfall. Some years we have between 50 and 60 different rain showers. Since the first of June, I have recorded just over an inch of rain. In 1986, we had about 45 inches of rain. Hoeft said he can remember back to the early 1930s when farmers never took their equipment out of the shed. The area was so dry, Mud Lake was empty between Rice Lake and Lake Koronis, he added. Ive seen the slough a mile north of here (County Line Road) fenced with cattle on both sides.

Hoeft also recalls when Highway 55 was built, wetlands were drained to make way for the road. He also remembers when the area by the hospital were duck ponds before they were drained to make way for housing, the school, and hospital.

When the Hoefts retired from farming, they built a new home on their farm on 277th Avenue. My son, Bill, took over the farm and I still have a few beef cows and my horses, Eldon added.

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