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Drainage Hearings Are Continued

By Staff | Sep 19, 2013

The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors voted to continue a pair of drainage hearings after meeting with landowners on Tuesday, Sept. 17. The proposed improvements to laterals in a drainage district between Mallard and West Bend created several questions for the affected landowners, and in an effort to obtain more information the hearings were continued until November.

Drainage Engineer Rick Hopper of Jacobson-Westergard and Associates of Estherville presented initial plans for improvements to DD 29, specifically Lateral 7, 7A, 7A1, 7A2 and 7B.

“This district was originally petitioned in 1906, and was accepted in 1910,” Hopper said. “There’s not a lot of area in this district, but there is a lot of county tile.”

According to Hopper, the area served by the laterals covers 252 acres.

The proposed improvement plan calls for the installation of a new tile, parallel to the existing lateral, which is over 100 years old. There are two options for the project, installing tile to provide a half-inch drainage coefficient, at an estimated cost of $252,000, or an average of $1,001 per acre. For a one-inch drainage coefficient, the estimated cost would be $282,000, or an average cost of $1,120 per acre.

A total of seven objections were submitted to the proposed plan by landowners Verla Brown, Duane Brown, Scott Hughes, Deb Hughes, Howard Morey, Herbert and Charlotte Morey, Dan Classen and Amy Classen.

After tabulating the objectors’ acres, it was determined that the right of Remonstrance was not met. However, Drainage Attorney Jim Hudson clarified a point.

“If the landowners don’t want the district to install laterals, they don’t have to,” Hudson noted. “The individuals can put a lateral in at their own expense, but then, only if everyone else on the lateral approves it.”

A question was raised in regards to use of plastic tile instead of concrete as proposed in the original plan.

“The engineer is required to design a project using drainage district design standards. Private individuals wouldn’t have to meet those standards if they installed tile on their own,” Hudson answered.

A question regarding what would happen to CRP lands that were affected by a drainage improvement was directed to Jeremy Thilges, a field technician with the Natural Resource Conservation Service.

“Are farmers made aware of the penalties, like contract cancellation, if work is done on a drainage district that affects their CRP lands?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“In this county, we have never removed anyone from a CRP contract for a DD project,” Thilges said. “We work with the producers in those cases.”

“My question on all of this is what is my cost going to be for all the work that was done on DD 29?” was the question posed by Kirk Wagner, referring to a major project completed earlier this year on the district main.

Hopper noted the cost of work done on the DD29 Main had totaled $1,153,564, not including $90,000 in interest and damages. Currently, a reclassification is underway for DD29 to determine individual benefits for assessment.

A question was asked whether rigid plastic, and perforated plastic tile could replace sections of concrete tile for the proposed work.

“I would like to be able to sit down with you landowners, look at your lands, and have a work session with you to get your input,” Hopper told the group, “Individual work sessions, if we could do that.”

“My question is why would you leave that old main in the ground? Why not tear the old main out and do it right?” asked Howard Morey.

Board Chair Ron Graettinger asked for a show of hands of those present that supported removal of the old main tile. Only two landowners raised their hands. “I’d agree with you, I think the old line should come out.”

After a few more minutes of discussion, it was agreed that the majority of those present wanted to see what their assessments would be for the DD29 project before going any further with the lateral project. And, with Hopper expressing a desire to meet with the landowners to get their input for a final design, the board agreed to continue the hearing to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 19.

A second hearing, for proposed improvements to DD29 Lateral 10, 10A and 10B was then held, with Hopper noting that the proposal was much the same as that for Lateral Seven, with installation of a new main parallel to the old tile main.

A proposal for a half-inch drainage coefficient was estimated at $366,000, or an average cost of $1,166 per acre, while a one-inch drainage coefficient was estimated at $373,000, or an average cost of $1,295 per acre for the 288 acres in the area.

There were just three objections to this proposal, filed by Howard Morey and Harriet Morse. The objections did not meet the right of Remonstrance.

“I still say its’ better to do it right, even if it costs me more money,” Howard Morey stated.

But, like the earlier hearing, the landowners wanted to see what their assessment totals would be, and coupled with Hopper’s wish to meet with the individual landowners to discuss design, the board voted to also continue the Lateral 10 hearing until 11 a.m. on Nov. 19. Hopper and the landowners then agreed to gather on Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. in the supervisor’s boardroom of the courthouse to discuss the design factors for the project.