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Drainage Hearing Is Continued

By Staff | Nov 3, 2011

A formal hearing on proposed improvements to Drainage District 29 made for a full house at Tuesday’s meeting of the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors. A total of 17 landowners in the district, located west of West Bend, were on hand for the public hearing in the board room of the Palo Alto County Courthouse.

Drainage Engineer Rick Hopper of Jacobson, Westergard and Associations of Estherville reviewed the proposed improvements to the district, which encompasses 2,151 acres in West Bend and Ellington Townships and was originally established back in 1906.

“Basically, the district tiles are undersized for today’s drainage needs,” Hopper noted. “In our report to the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 8, we proposed three options for this district.”

The first option, with a drainage coefficient of one-inch, would utilize drain tile of 60″, at an estimated cost of $448 per acre. Option two, a half-inch drainage coefficient, with 48″ tile, was estimated at $320 and acre. A third option, using a new, 42″ tile along with the existing tiles, would create a half-inch drainage coefficient at an estimated cost of $262 per acre.

“My minimum recommendation would be to go with the half-inch coefficient, option two,”?Hopper told the group, but for the difference in cost, the one-inch option would be a better bargain in the long run.”

A total of 10 written objections were filed to the proposal, and were read by Hopper as part of the hearing. Objections were field by Duane Brown, Galen Grethen, Jeanette Fickbohm, Harriet Morris, Howard Morey, Eugene Forey, Vela Brown and Scott Hughes, M&M?Family Farms, LLC, Daniel Classen and William and David Ulrich.

A common theme of the objections was the cost of repairs, while another concern was for costs of mitigation of wetlands due to the work.

Hopper explained the process of drainage law known as Remonstrance, which could stop any drainage project.

“Under Remonstrance, 50 percent of the landowners who control 70 percent of the lands in the project can object to the project and it would be stopped instantly,”?Hopper noted. “Or, if costs are too high, the supervisors, as trustees of the district, can also choose not to do the work.”

After examining the 10 written objections and checking the acres represented by the objectors, Deputy Auditor Carmen Moser noted that the objectors tallied 737.45 acres, not enough to invoke the Remonstrance provision.

“At this point, no more written objections can be filed and it doesn’t meet the Remonstrance provisions,” Hopper noted. “We could continue this hearing to get the rest of the wetland determinations from the NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service), which would help you to better consider this.”

However, Hopper had positive news about mitigation of wetlands. “In a similar project in Humboldt County, I?was able to get the OK from the state to utilize a pre-established mitigation bank, even though our project wasn’t actually in the approved area,”?Hopper explained. “This project is in the same situation and I am very confident the state will allow us to do the same thing here at a cost of $8,000 an acre.”

“That’s a pretty good number,” noted Duane Brown. “I was told mitigation costs could range anywhere from $15 to 20,000 an acre.”

“They could, but this land is already set aside for this purpose and the owners would be willing to make it available at the lower cost,”?Hopper noted.

“Does the Drainage District cover the costs of mitigation?” Supervisor Ed Noonan asked Hopper.

“Typically it does,”?was the engineer’s answer.

One landowner asked if the district would need to be reclassified if improvements were made.

“Yes,” Hopper said. “any improvments to a drainage district will provide different benefits to the lands and you want to make sure the benefits are properly accounted for.”

A question was asked about performing more study on the upper end of the district to tie in with the proposed improvements.

“If that were brought into this, would it help reduce overall costs?” asked landowner Bill Farnham.

“Yes, it could also bring the costs down as well,”?Hopper replied.

“Does this district have an average amount of fall to it? landowner Roger Wagner asked Hopper.

“I would have to say the fall is a little below average, Hopper answered.

After discussion, the hearing was continued to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

As the hearing concluded, Supervisor Chair Keith Wirtz asked the group their general feelings in terms of going ahead with the proposed improvements, and which option was preferred.

“I’d say go with the one-inch coefficient,”?replied Roger Wagner.

“You don’t send a boy to do a man’s job,”?stated Duane Brown.