Podcast Episode 31

Fall Tiling Check-in: North Dakota

With Guest:
  • Derrik Ellingson of Ellingson Companies

Jamie makes calls to drainage contractors to hear how the 2021 fall tiling season is going in their areas. Derrik Ellingson of Ellingson Companies joins Jamie on part 2 of this 4 part series. Derrik shares what he’s seeing in the Red River Valley as well as his experience with the permitting process in his region.

Episode 31 | 10:58 min
What a great way to be as environmentally friendly as possible where we can pull the water out in one area and re-apply it over the course of the growing season.

Guest Bio

Derrik Ellingson is the Vice President of the Ag Division at Ellingson Companies, primarily servicing in the Red River Valley region. Ellingson Companies is a leading subsurface water management and trenchless construction company providing nationwide services.

Jamie Duininck (00:02):
This is The Water Table.

Kent R. (00:05):
The chance to hear the agricultural side of these issues.

Jamie Duininck (00:09):
Plays for people to go find information and education.

Matt H. (00:13):
Water management is just going to become even more critical into the future.

Jamie Duininck (00:19):
How misunderstood what we do is.

Kent R. (00:25):
I would encourage people to open their minds and listen to this dialogue.

Jamie Duininck (00:36):
Welcome to The Water Table Podcast. As you might know, this week, I’m calling individuals around the Midwest, drainage contractors. And today, I have Derek Ellingson from Ellingson Company’s on the phone with me and just want to chat about how the fall is going up in North Dakota and throughout the region and the projects they’re doing some water management on. Thanks for joining me today, Derek.

Derrik Ellingson (01:04):
Yeah. Good morning, Jamie. Thanks for having me on.

Jamie Duininck (01:07):
Yeah, so been a great year throughout the Midwest, as far as weather, maybe running into a few challenges as of late but a lot of productivity, I know, but how’s it going for Ellingson’s in this fall tiling season?

Derrik Ellingson (01:25):
Yeah. Overall, Jamie, things are going well. We’re completely blessed, obviously, with the year that we’re forecasting to wrap up here. I look back and what’s happened in the last 12 to 18 months, you kind of wonder how we’ve got to where we’re at but extremely fortunate in the Ag sector of things with the agriculture demand, obviously water management, still being at the forefront of everybody’s mind as they press on. I know the Red River Valley here itself with the region where I’m located personally, we came into the year and things were dry. Nobody really, I don’t think, had a real good idea of what things were going to shape up to be, but we’re still finding subsurface moisture down there.

Derrik Ellingson (02:17):
And I think a lot of that is what’s putting the crops up that these guys have put up this year. So all in all, the talk that I’m catching around the area is averages that were surprisingly good for the bushels of what to expect out there. I think these guys were expecting a lot less, and I know the wheat crop was definitely poor in some places but very good in others and an average crop that was all real good. So yeah, so things are good, Jamie. Things are good.

Jamie Duininck (02:52):
Yeah. Yeah. Good. So yeah, you mentioned where you’re located is in the Red River Valley. And I know Ellingson’s headquarters are in West Concord, Minnesota and Southeast Minnesota and your North Dakota office is in Harwood, just north of Fargo where you’re at, but can you give our listeners a little bit of what geographical markets are you guys primarily working in with your drainage crews?

Derrik Ellingson (03:21):
Sure. Primarily, obviously, just like you said, we’ve got our North Dakota region and we have our Southeastern Minnesota corporate office, but we’re targeting the Southeastern Minnesota. We ventured west into Western Minnesota a little bit, and we’re getting into a little bit of the Northern Iowa area down there. We do cover a little bigger area up here in the North Dakota office. We do get all the way up to the Canadian border and then into Minnesota, probably 80 to 100 miles, but big valley up here so, on a map, you kind of lose sight of how big the area is. But down in the South Dakota and then west out into that Jamestown, and we are starting to get some demand out in that Minot area as well. And we’ll see what happens on the Prairie Pothole Regions, but core focus is obviously here in the valley, so…

Jamie Duininck (04:12):
Sure. And what’s a typical project for you guys? And I’m sure it changes by geographical region, but if you’re in the Red River Valley, what would be just a typical day in, day out project you’re working on?

Derrik Ellingson (04:28):
Yeah, so obviously up here in the Red River Valley, I mean, it’s flat. I think a lot of people have been up here. Poses lots of different challenges that get thrown at us, but typically they’re talking in the quarter sections is usually what everything’s plotted off into. So I’d say the average job is around 160 acres. Sometimes you get lucky, get bigger ones than that, but there’s also a lot of random tiling going on and filling in different areas and eighties and whatnot as well, so…

Jamie Duininck (05:01):
Sure. Sure. Any unique projects, school projects that you worked on, maybe finished this calendar year or working on currently, that you’d like to share or you could share with the listeners on something challenging that Ellingson’s have been up to?

Derrik Ellingson (05:19):
Yeah, no, there’s always different challenges that we get posed with in a calendar year. We don’t have anything that comes to mind right off the top. Obviously, we do deal with some high water table sands from time to time. We don’t have any subsurface irrigation projects going on on this calendar year. We do got a little bit of demand. We might be looking at one here coming into 2022 with a subsurface irrigation project. But just your standard subsurface drainage projects pretty much is what’s most of the projects amount to. We do get a few guys that are doing some irrigating back with the tile water. So we have a few of them and that obviously poses a lot of different challenges on discharge and then how we do that but will probably get a little more common, I guess, in areas for guys to take advantage of all sides and reuse that water. And I mean, what a great way to be as environmentally-friendly as possible, where we can pull the water out in one area and reapply it over the course of the growing season, so…

Jamie Duininck (06:33):
Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Another thing that I think I’d like to make sure our listeners understand that talking to people this week throughout the Midwest region, and it’s pretty different from Illinois and Indiana and Iowa compared to the Dakotas when it comes to regulatory situations. And I know that North Dakota can be challenging, and how is that going now? And what’s kind of on the top of your mind, or is it going better than it has been? And what are the challenges out there when…? Talk about getting permits and just being able to go on projects.

Derrik Ellingson (07:19):
Yeah, no, I’d have to say overall, North Dakota has definitely gotten a little more pro on the water management side of things. The permitting process, I feel, has gotten definitely better. We’ve had ups and downs in the permitting process over the course of the last eight years. Jump across the river to the Minnesota side, obviously, the controversial Red River and, obviously, the river valley being a lake bottom, water is… Our friend Mark Twain once said, “Whiskey’s for drinking. Water’s for fighting over.” And I have to believe that’s awful true, but probably where I see some of the big misconceptions going on is understanding the overarching effect of what’s going on underground. I think a lot of people still accuse the water management guys of manufacturing water. And we tried to tell them over and over, and we continued trying to educate them, but we got a few watersheds we need to keep working on. And I always get a little heartburn when people aren’t giving any credit due to the water that that soil is now holding versus it running off the top. And that’s an educational thing. And, like I said, overall, it’s pretty good, but we definitely still got some rowing of the boat to do on certain sides of the river here in the Red River Valley region, which is primarily probably where the permitting is the heaviest, I would say, in all the geographical areas where we work, so…

Jamie Duininck (08:58):
Well, just, yeah, I wanted to have you share that because it is different in other areas. They just don’t have to deal with some of the issues that happen in the Dakotas, and just thank you guys at Ellingson’s for carrying the bucket of water in regards to helping the whole industry with streamlining some of this in some of these areas where people just aren’t aware. They don’t have the knowledge or the education. And that’s part of what we’re trying to do here on The Water Table too is just tell people that maybe are against something because they don’t know and, if we can educate them, they will come around. So appreciate what you guys are doing on that end. It’s Thanksgiving Week and just wanted to wish you and your whole team a Happy Thanksgiving, Derek, and make sure that you guys stay safe here as we finish out 2021.

Derrik Ellingson (09:57):
Yeah, Jamie, no, thanks to everything at [inaudible 00:10:00] and everything that’s done there, The Water Table and your podcast that you’ve put together. It’s been enjoyable to listen to and there, again, like I said, it’s been a long year here. And I think everybody’s excited to get to Thanksgiving dinner here with their families. And we’re going to try really hard to give our guys the week off for the superseding of the holiday to give them a long weekend. But we’ll see what happens. Mother Nature’s obviously in control, and we’re going to get this year wrapped up and get 2021 in the books. So I appreciate it.

Jamie Duininck (10:34):
Yeah. Thanks so much for your time.

Derrik Ellingson (10:36):
Yeah, thanks Jamie.

Jamie Duininck (10:38):
Yep. Bye-bye. If you enjoy what you’re listening to, you can find us on your favorite podcast platform. You can find us on Twitter or Facebook, and you can also find us at watertablepodcast.com. Thanks for listening.