Supervisors Acknowledge Objections
Even though the official engineer’s report has yet to be presented to them for consideration, the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors went on record Tuesday to acknowledge a list of objectors to a proposed pilot drainage program. The list of 20 objectors to any further study or engineering work on the Drainage District 15 North project was presented to the supervisors during their weekly meeting on July 19.
Rick Dodds, a farm manager representing the Wikert Limited Partnership, appeared before the board to ask that they discontinue any further thought of carrying out the proposed work in DD15 north in Vernon Township. “The petitioners want to put a halt to the project,” Dodds said simply.
“They want to stop it without even seeing the engineer’s report?” Board Chair Keith Wirtz asked. “I guess I’m very surprised that the people don’t even want to see the information on this project, especially when IDALS (Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship) is paying for half of it.”
“The people I represent have some sketchy information,” Dodds answered.
“But how do they know they’re opposed to this when they don’t even know what it will cost?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.
“The Wikert family is opposed to a 130 acre wetland on their property,” Dodds said. “The landowners I’ve visited with, all but two in the district want to stop the costs of this.”
“Have all these people been to the meetings we’ve held about this project? How do they know?” Noonan pressed. “Sitting here on this board, I can’t make any kind of decision until I see all the information, including the engineer’s report and cost estimates.”
Drainage Engineer Don Etler, who was present, urged the board to continue the process to the hearing stage where the engineer’s report would be presented, which would detail costs. “At least hear the information,” Etler said.
The proposed project is a joint effort between IDALS and the Drainage District with a goal of establishing a new technology in agricultural drainage that will reduce nitrate loadings that would eventually make their way to the Mississippi River and flow to the Gulf of Mexico and help to reduce the hypoxic zone in the Gulf.
“The tiles in 15 North date back to 1907,” Etler said. “We have to look at designing drainage systems to work in the future. And, if 15 North drops this project, it will adversely affect the plans for the similar project in DD 15 South.
“I really think people need to see the engineer’s report before making any decisions,” Wirtz stated. “We need to have the hearing.”
“Before I can consider the objections, I need to see a list of the acres and the owners,” Supervisor Ron Graettinger said. “We need to look at that list first.”
“Remember, we have a petition for drainage relief on file that we accepted and have to address,” Wirtz said.
“We need to have our drainage attorney here to discuss this further,” Graettinger said. “We can’t decide this today.”
“I just hope the objectors have the information they need,” Noonan said. “That’s my biggest concern with this.”
“We brought these objections to you now because we wanted to be proactive and timely, rather than be too late. These people are opposed to any further efforts on this project,” Dodds said.
On a motion from Graettinger, the objections were acknowledged and filed on a unanimous vote of the board.