Portage County Drainage District Makes Farming Possible
Without drainage districts like the one in Portage County, farmers would be tending swamps, not fields
By Joe Kertzman, Managing Editor
They had a mission in the early 1900s—drain water off certain swampy areas, including in and around the Central Sands, to make the land suitable for agricultural and other purposes. The majority of existing drainage districts in Wisconsin were formed in the early 1900s.
From the beginning, landowners who benefited from water drainage were required to pay assessments to cover the cost of constructing, maintaining and repairing district drains. That requirement remains in effect, and the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) oversees the assessments and Drainage District Program in general.
DATCP oversees 176 active drainage districts in Wisconsin, and of the 72 counties in the state, 31 of them contain one or more drainage districts, the majority in the eastern and southeastern regions.
Paul Cieslewicz is the Chairman of the Board of the Portage County Drainage District, a district that was first introduced in an 1898 petition and approved on February 3, 1905.
“The land around the Portage County Drainage District was a tamarack swamp with some small streams and very little farming back then,” explains Cieslewicz, owner of Sand County Equipment, a full-service potato and vegetable equipment dealership in Bancroft, Wisconsin.
“Donnie Hamerski asked me to be on the Drainage District Board in 2004 because Ed Wade was going to retire, so I followed the board members around like a puppy for a year to get a feeling for it, and I was appointed in 2005 by Judge Finn,” Cieslewicz adds. “In June 2015 I became Chair of the Board.”