Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Drainage board eyes action on unregulated ditches

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By AL BODIE

At Monday’s Drainage Board meeting, members discussed ways to control and maintain private unregulated storm water runoff systems while anticipating some opposition from property owners.

The board currently has responsibility for a few hundred miles of regulated drains. Thousands of miles of unregulated ditches and waterways would be included in the new plan.

With a $300,000 budget the drainage board must maintain and repair regulated ditches. All the board members say more money is needed.

Board member Ray Pomeroy said, “Years ago we used to be able to clear out a stream with dragline for $30 an hour but not anymore.”

Drainage Board President Dave Burris told the board that many ditches along area roads have been maintained by the county’s highway department. This work is done at no cost to the Drainage Board.

“We would be the first to agree that Al Hoagland has done a first class job maintaining ditches.” As the county’s highway superintendent, Hoagland regularly assigns crews to clean and dig out some of the many roadside ditches.

One of the suggestions before the board is to expand the role of the county highway workers to include a drainage crew that would be assigned each day to do maintenance of ditches.

“The county has an assigned bridge crew, why not the same for water runs, they could go out and clear out the beaver dams and vegetation,” Burris explained.

How to fund added maintenance of the many miles of unregulated storm runoffs remains unanswered. Suggestions range from flat fees charged per lot or parcel to a fee based on the number and size of storm water outlets on each property.

“But in keeping with the county council we are very sensitive to the issue of not raising taxes,” said Burris.

Another issue for the board is one of gaining access to private properties and later obtaining needed easements. The county has no jurisdiction to go on private property to inspect storm drains.

As for easements, state law allows for taking of property if it’s in the best interests of the public or for the transporting of resources like water.

“I think I speak for the entire board” declared Brietzke. “In no way, would we be getting easements through eminent domain. We don’t even want to discuss it.”

Whatever direction the board takes, board members acknowledge that public input is necessary.

“The south county is pretty much done but we would have to hold our meetings in the Expo Center when it comes to the north county” Burris said.

The board is overseeing several storm water control projects in the northern part of the county.

Burris believes that residents have forgotten the recent years of floods. “Their memories have become dull.” said Burris.

Based on past experiences with north county residents the board anticipates strong opposition to future drainage plans.

To complete all the 31 projects outlined in the county’s drainage plan would cost over 1.2 million dollars at a time when the board opposes increasing taxes.

With the number of subdivisions growing, the board may look to the legislature for help or seek grant funding.

Since a map was developed with very accurate plotting of watersheds throughout the county, a fee could be charged for each of these areas and the impact its drainage has on the stormwater district.

This is not without problems, because some areas already are paying for flood control. For these exemptions could be granted, the board reasoned.

In other North County Business:

At this week’s meeting the board awarded a bid in the amount of $38,400 to K and L Excavating of Kouts for work on Kemper Ditch. Bid is for significant cleaning and developing of this waterway. Kemper Ditch runs from 300 East Burdick to the CSX tracks. The bid was awarded contingent upon the property owner giving an easement, and the bidder’s insurance taking effect.

The next Drainage Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 9, at 8:30 a.m. at the Porter County Administrative Building, 155 Indiana Valparaiso.

 

Posted 4/12/2011

 

 

 

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