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Formal Hearing Continued On Drainage Improvement

By Staff | Aug 13, 2015

With 29 landowners on hand for a formal hearing, the future of proposed improvements to Drainage District 61 Lateral B near Rodman remains up in the air following the hearing on August 4. During the course of the hearing, two additional options were raised for landowners to consider on the district, which is located in Sections 16, 17, 21, 22 and 23 of Fern Valley Township.

Drainage Engineer Rick Hopper of Jacobson-Westergard and Associates of Estherville reviewed his original engineering report, which contained two options for improvements, extending the existing open ditch or installing a larger tile.

Hopper also presented a third option, the installation of a tile of equal size to the existing tile line, and a cleanout of the surface waterway drain. That option was estimated to cost $1,565,000, and would only provide a drainage coefficient of one-eighth of an inch, which is the same as the existing coefficient of the district.

“The best bang for the buck is the open ditch, but that is also the biggest issue,” Hopper noted. “There are a lot of issues with extending an open ditch, which is why this is an important discussion.”

Drainage Attorney Jim Hudson of Pocahontas pointed out that to extend an open ditch would require the drainage district to acquire additional right-of-way, and would also allow landowners affected by that acquisition to received additional compensation for severance of their lands by the ditch.

“There are some very significant expenses as high as 10 to 20 percent of the value of the project when doing a project such as this,” Hudson pointed out.

A question was raised asking if a parcel of land was land locked by an open ditch, if the district would be responsible to provide the landowner access.

“The district is not responsible in such an event,” Hudson answered. “This is a very serious discussion for you landowners.”

Jay Bargman asked if Hopper could give a guess as to classification valuations per acre if the latest tile option were selected.

“I would guess it would run from $150 to $1,000 per acre, depending on the classification findings,” Hopper replied.

Hudson agreed, noting past projects in the region averaged around 10 percent of the land value for reclassification.

“One thing to think about is no one is sure where the Clean Water Act or the EPA are going to take us with farm drainage,” Hudson said. “It’s a slippery slope. In five to 10 years from now, this could be a totally different project.”

Over 25 objections were filed to the project, with three comments supporting the proposed improvements.

After reading the objections, Hudson again pointed out his personal reservations regarding severance, where a landowner having his property cut by an open ditch would receive additional compensation from the district for the loss. “To figure severance, the district would need to contact a certified farm appraiser to give valuations on five miles of open ditch. I can see up to 10 percent of the value of this project for severance payments.”

After several minutes of discussion, a question was raised from the landowners as to a fourth option, of cleaning out the existing surface drain waterway. Hopper acknowledged it could be added into the plan as an option, but did not have figures or estimated available at that moment.

It was noted that in a reclassification performed in 1990, 20 to 25 parcels were crossed off the reclassification list due to a tile that had been capped off. According to Hopper, those parcel owners had not been notified of this proposed improvement, as they were not found to have benefitted acres in the district. However, at the same time, the parcels had not been assessed for any work in the district in the past 25 years, but were still physically in the district.

“That’s something to take into consideration as well,” Hudson said. “Those folks should be included in this discussion, and with a question still remaining on wetlands, I would suggest this hearing be continued until Nov. 17, 2015 at 1 p.m. here at the Election Center.”