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Date Set For Informal Hearing

By Staff | Jul 16, 2015

The Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors were presented with a new idea during a report on a drainage district improvement proposal Tuesday, July 14. The proposal came from Drainage Engineer Don Etler of Bolton and Menk of Spencer for a proposed improvement to Drainage District 28 in Vernon and Independence Townships.

With landowner Wade Lundgren on hand, Etler presented his report on the district to the supervisors, and noted that a primary issue with the district involved farmed wetlands, which total approximately 110 acres

“Because of the amount of farmable wetlands involved, it would be my recommendation that the drainage district not participate in mitigation,” Etler said. “Otherwise, the individual landowners would be responsible for finding their own mitigation acres.”

“What would mitigation cost?” asked Supervisor Ed Noonan.

“Realistically today, $20,000 an acre for mitigation is not out of line,” Etler answered before pitching a new idea.

“I came up with an idea where the landowner with a wetland determination could sell those acres to the DD,” Etler began. “The DD could then have that landowner custom farm those acres and the crops would be sold in the DD’s name, with the proceeds going to pay the assessment on those lands. Then, at that point in the future when the assessment is paid, the DD could sell the land back to the landowner, but he couldn’t farm it unless he mitigates it.”

The supervisors began talking about the proposal, expressing concerns and questions on how or even if such a plan could work.

“I don’t know if that would work,” Noonan said. “Has anything like this been done in any other DD?”

“Not to my knowledge,” Etler answered.

Etler then detailed the proposed improvements, which would include deepening the existing open ditch by five feet, and replacement of old 24-inch tile with 48-inch tile, along with work on Branch A of the district. As part of the project, Etler recommended the annexation of approximately 1,300 acres into the district, which currently includes 2,700 acres. The proposed improvements would increase the district’s drainage co-efficient from one-sixteenth of an inch to a one-half inch coefficient, and would provide a better outlet for DD139 as well.

“The estimated costs for construction, without any mitigation, are $1,800,000,” Etler told the board. “With engineering, contingencies and miscellaneous expenses, the total project cost is estimated at $2,150,000. That would equal an average of $778 an acre for the existing 2,700 acres, but with the annexed acres added in, the cost would be $529 an acre.”

Noting that the Remonstrance provision would be applicable to the project, as it is an improvement, Etler agreed with the board that an informal hearing would be a good idea.

“There are cases where a reclassification before the hearing is very helpful,” Etler agreed, noting that a reclassification was recommended as part of the project as well.

After looking over dates, the board agreed to hold an informal hearing for landowners at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11, in the Palo Alto County Election Center.