The Porter County
Storm Water Advisory Board opted to delay ruling on the case of a Pine
Township wetland restoration project.
Jim Phares, of Pine
Township, along with a representative of the Department of Agriculture’s
Natural Resource Conservation Service, petitioned the Board for permission
to build a new control structure that would maintain historic water levels
in the 20 acres of marsh on Phares’ 42-acre restored wetland property at 580
Burdick Road. They also asked that the County change the elevation of a
culvert that drains Bedenkoff ditch under C.R. 575 E.
Derek Schmitt, NRCS
district conservationist for Porter and Lake counties, told the Board that
the culvert under C.R. 575 E is set at a lower elevation than the culvert
that was in place when the wetland was originally restored. Schmitt said new
regulations that the NRCS is bound by require that the control structure be
set at the same elevation or lower than the lowest culvert so no water will
be let out onto adjacent properties. However, aligning the new control
structure with the new, lower culvert would reduce the wetland habitat on
the property. He proposed that the County add an elbow shaped tailpiece to
the culvert. Schmitt said adding this tailwater device wouldn’t
significantly slow down the flow of water, but it would bring the level of
the culvert up high enough to preserve the water levels in Phares’ marsh and
offer “quality open water habitat.”
President and Board member Jeff Good, R-Center, asked who would be paying
for the tailwater device. Schmitt responded that the NRCS would be providing
the control structure, but it cannot pay for the tailpiece at this time.
Good also asked
what happened to the old structure. Phares responded that he has already
dismantled the structure, which was failing due to wear and tear. Phares
also said that if he hadn’t taken it down, the County would be dealing with
flooding over the road. Good told Phares sternly that any work on that
structure, including its removal, should have gotten approval from the storm
Mike Novotney’s recommendation for the case was to examine it further and
revisit it. Novotney said the proposed work will require permits not only
from the storm water department, but also from the Army Corps of Engineers
and Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM).
“Certainly this has
been a drainage problem area for the County,” Novotney said, adding that
Phares will have to obtain the necessary permits from other agencies. After
that, he can apply for a site improvement permit from the County. “We’re
fully in support of environmental restoration,” Novotney said, “but it needs
more permits. It needs more review from our office.”
County Surveyor and
Board member Kevin Breitzke noted that Novotney’s recommendation is a
precaution to make sure adjacent property owners aren’t negatively affected.
Novotney added that he must also consider how this project could affect
landowners downstream and upstream, and for that he needs more information.
Good defended the
Board from those who might think it is ruling against conservation. “We’re
up here trying to do the right thing. It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot
of agencies, and we’re sort of the last stop in that process.” He added that
the storm water department is in its infant stages in deciding how to fix a
host of drainage problems across the County, having been formed only two
years ago. The department is willing to coordinate with anyone, from federal
agencies to individual landowners, to create the best solutions, he said.
“Our door is always open.”