Chesterton Tribune



County storm water board delays ruling on Pine Township wetland

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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.”

Commissioner 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 water department.

County Engineer 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.”



Posted 6/12/2018




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