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Drainage Issues Stick With Supervisors

By Staff | Jul 1, 2010

As he saying goes, when it rains, it pours. The Palo Alto County Supervisors continued to slog through a variety of drainage issues at their March 29 meeting, the least of which was the ongoing issue of Five Island Lake and its’ affect on Drainage District 80.

With nearly 10 inches of rain in the past week around the county, drainage systems are running at capacity as numerous ponds have developed around the county.

In the case of DD80, however, the heavy rainfalls in the last few days, including last Friday night’s torrential downpours, have caused the levels of Five Island Lake to rise significantly, rising over numerous docks on the lake. And, as the water level has risen, the amount of water flowing over the dam into DD80 has increased exponentially to the point where the dam is not visible, due to the high water level, and DD80 at the dam is running almost bank-full from the outflow of the lake.

The supervisors discussed that fact as they reviewed an accounting of the debt incurred by the State of Iowa’s legal fight with the district over a 2005 drainage assessment against the lake.

According to figures compiled by Palo Alto County Auditor Gary Leonard’s staff, the original assessment against the lake totaled $97,211. Since the assessment, interest in the amount of $35,922 has accrued, totaling $133,133. Added to that debt is the drainage engineer’s costs of $34,132 and legal fees for the court challenges totaling $48,287, giving the district a debt of $216,552 due to the lake assessment.

That information was shared with drainage attorney Bob Brinton during a conference call on Tuesday morning, in which the supervisors asked Brinton to draft a letter to Department of Natural Resources Director Rich Leopold with that information, as well as a request to find out the name of the individual who actually instigated the original lawsuit against the drainage district. That request has continually generated an answer that the State of Iowa filed the suit, an answer that does no sit well with the supervisors.

In the course of the call, Brinton was asked if the district could sue the DNR, as owner of the lake, for introducing excess water into the drainage ditch, which has led to downstream flooding.

“The district itself could not file suit against the DNR in this case,” Brinton answered. “It would have to be an affected landowner, someone who is directly affected by the excess water, that could file such a suit.”

“Is there any way we could embarrass the DNR into paying this debt?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked Brinton.

Brinton chuckled, as he replied, “No You can’t embarrass the DNR. They are doing their job, and that is to create marshes and swamps. That’s what they’re charged with doing.”

The board members and Brinton agreed to send Director Leopold the letter explaining the debt, and also agreed that the upcoming meeting with the interim committee of legislators in November would be the best bet for implementing some type of action in the ongoing issue.