of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
Ellison, Attorney General, Stacey W. Person, Max Kieley,
Joshua Skaar, Assistant Attorneys General, Saint Paul,
Minnesota, for appellant.
W. Von Korff, Rinke Noonan, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, for
order by a drainage authority reestablishing drainage-system
records under Minn. Stat. § 103E.101, subd. 4a (2018) is
a quasi-judicial decision subject to certiorari review.
appeal involves an order by respondent Chippewa/Swift Joint
Board of Commissioners (Board) reestablishing the records for
a public drainage system pursuant to Minn. Stat. §
103E.101, subd. 4a (2018). Appellant Minnesota Department of
Natural Resources (DNR) sought certiorari review of the
order. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of
jurisdiction. The DNR contends that the Board's order
reestablishing public drainage-system records was a
quasi-judicial decision subject to certiorari review. The
court of appeals held that the order reestablishing records
was not a quasi-judicial decision subject to certiorari
review because it did not constitute a final, binding
decision. We conclude that the Board's order was a
quasi-judicial decision subject to certiorari review.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand to the court of appeals
with instructions to reinstate the appeal.
and Swift Judicial Ditch No. 9 (the drainage system) is a 17,
200-acre watershed in Chippewa and Swift Counties that was
established as a public drainage system in 1910. The
watershed is mainly comprised of agricultural land cover,
with many wetland complexes stretching in the low areas of
the watershed along the drainage system. In 2017, landowners
benefited by the drainage system requested that repairs be
made to the system. While the landowners' request was
under consideration, county staff discovered that the
original records establishing the drainage system had been
lost, destroyed, or were otherwise incomplete. As a result,
the Board, acting as the drainage authority for the drainage
system, determined that reestablishment of the records was
necessary to proceed with a repair.
reestablishment of drainage-system records is governed by
Minn. Stat. § 103E.101, subd. 4a, and requires, "at
a minimum, investigation and a report of findings by a
professional engineer licensed in Minnesota supported by
existing records and evidence." Id., subd.
4a(a). Accordingly, the Board appointed an engineer to
conduct an investigation and prepare a report. The
investigation utilized aerial photographs, topographic
surveys, soil borings, capacity designs, and culvert
dimensions and elevations. The resulting report addressed the
ditch alignment, grade, and cross-sections.
Board submitted the report to the DNR for comment and gave
notice of an upcoming hearing, as required by the statute.
See id., subd. 4a(c). The DNR's overarching
concern was that the Board's reestablishment proposal
would have the effect of lowering the water levels of nearby
made three recommendations to the Board to address this
issue. First, the DNR noted that the proposed grade, or
slope, of two culverts was significantly lower than existing
elevations. The DNR stated that significant lowering of these
culverts would substantially reduce the water levels of the
wetlands below what was necessary for this system. The DNR
requested additional information regarding why the culverts
should be lowered. Second, the DNR noted that the report
included an increase in grade for a section of the drainage
system and argued that the increase appeared unnecessary.
Finally, the DNR stated that the proposal for the grade of
part of the drainage system would cause a reduction in the
runout elevation, which is the point at which the water
begins to flow out of a wetland.
Board next held a public hearing at which the engineer
reported his findings and a representative from the DNR again
articulated the agency's concerns. Following the hearing,
the Board issued an order reestablishing the drainage
system's records. In the order, the Board discussed the
procedures it followed before reestablishing the records,
including appointing an engineer, giving notice to the DNR
and others as required by statute, and holding a public
hearing. The Board ordered reestablishment of the records for
the drainage system to reflect the findings of the
engineer's report and ordered that the records
"shall constitute the official drainage system records
in all subsequent proceedings."
petitioned the Minnesota Court of Appeals for a writ of
certiorari. The Board moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of
jurisdiction. The court of appeals held that the Board's
order was not a quasi-judicial decision subject to ...