Annexation Study Presented to Landowners
Over 15 landowners were on hand to hear what Drainage Engineer Don Etler of Bolton & Menk, Inc. had to say about an annexation study concerning Drainage District 175 during an informal meeting held by the Palo Alto County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, March 1.
“This is simply an informational meeting of a study of possible annexation of lands that benefit but are not currently in Drainage District 175,” Etler began.
Drainage District 175 is one of the districts in Palo Alto County that has had several major repairs done on it over the last 25 years. The most recent repairs came in 2014 after several inches of rain fell in a short amount of time over the area causing an estimated $455,055 in damages. A request from FEMA to help fund this repair is currently under review and waiting approval.
DD 175 currently includes 4,887 acres of land assessed for benefits from the main open ditch, however, the entire watershed consists of 39,686 acres that is tributary to the same open ditch in DD 175. During the annexation study, it was found that 6,422 acres do not belong to an established drainage district but are benefited by the open ditch. “Although all of the parcels in the watershed materially benefit, we recommend that only those benefiting parcels needed to extend benefit assessments via common outlet procedures to other benefited lands that are located in established drainage districts in the watershed be formally annexed into Drainage District 175,” per The Annexation Report on Drainage District 175.
“Annexation has been discussed two times before and nothing was pursued. This time the Board did appoint us to prepare an annexation report with regard to lands that are benefitted but not now in the district and file a report,” Etler said. “It is a list of lands that we have recommended be annexed. A fundamental assumption is drainage law is that if you work your land, tile your ground, farm your ground, the excess water that comes off your ground and goes down to a drainage district, you are obligated under state law to help get rid of your water. All the land in the watershed can be assumed to be benefitted.”
“There are three considerations for the district landowners: don’t annex any land and continue as you are bearing the full burden for any costs, annex the lands necessary to put the district in the position to common outlet the assessed costs to tributary drainage districts, and finally pursue the annexation of all benefitted lands within the watershed.”
“This is a very controversial issue,” Supervisor Ed Noonan said.
“What’s gonna happen to the ditch if FEMA doesn’t give any money towards fixing it?” John Meyers, landowner questioned.
“The Board of Supervisors as the Trustees of the district are required to make repairs, so the repairs will be made, it’s the cost to landowners in the district that will be higher,” Etler replied.
“Would straightening out the ditch help?” Landowner Greg Garrelts asked.
“It would help some. Putting Drops in the ditch would also help greatly,” Etler responded.
“What about state aid?” Meyers asked.
“Ten percent is paid by the state, fifteen percent comes from local landowners, and seventy percent comes from FEMA,” Etler said.
“Who makes the decision to annex?” questioned Garrelts.
“The Board of Supervisors as your representatives,” Etler explained.
” What do you guys think? All the easy drainage is done. We want to know what you want us as your representatives to do,” Supervisor Chairman Linus Solberg asked.
With further discussion on issues of common outlet, finding out that the DNR also pays toward drainage but Fish and Wildlife does not and discussing a natural creek versus an open ditch, the landowners of DD 175 voted to have the Supervisors pursue and set a date for an annexation hearing.
The annexation hearing for Drainage District 175 has been set for Tuesday, June 14, at 1 p.m.