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Supervisors await go-ahead for drainage work

May 28, 2013
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

Pending clearance by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday laid plans for cleaning out a portion of Drainage Ditch 44.

Engineer Scott Brunsvold of Jacobson-Westergard said he had done initial field work in January on Drainage Ditch 44. Landowner Bud Schnell had come before the board accompanied by attorney Jim Hudson earlier regarding a drainage problem.

Brunsvold said he had examined Iowa Department of Natural Resources property to just past Schnell's field entrance and compared silt depth with the original. His recommendation was to clean out 18 to 42 inches of silt along with some trees. Once the dirt was removed, Brunsvold said the ditch would run free and clear again. He said riprap on the north side would help direct water to where it should be going.

When it came to public comment, Bryan Hellyer, DNR wildlife management biologist, said he would like to see an aerial survey of where the county wanted to clean out the ditch.

Brunsvold also confirmed to Ike Peterson that trees slated for removal were in the ditch easement. And Brunsvold told Hellyer the easement extended 50 feet to each side of the ditch.

Board chair Alan Madden said the county would be restoring the ditch back to its original grade.

"That's all we can do with a repair project," Madden said, adding that the project would be under $20,000.

Hellyer said there would have to be a construction permit since the cleanout would be on DNR property and that there would have to be a compatible use agreement with the NRCS. And anytime work is done on state property, those doing the work have to go through a multiple approval process , he said.

Madden said he had never had to deal with the DNR or Corps of Engineers on drainage repairs.

Hellyer said though that whenever construction or major repair is done on state land that the process needs to be followed.

Madden suggested that Hellyer work with Brunsvold on the project, and Hellyer said he could help facilitate the process with NRCS. "They (NRCS) are the easement holders. They hold the easement. We (DNR) hold the land" which is in the Wetland Reserve Program, Hellyer said. "I would anticipate no problem."

"This is costing me money," Schnell said, expressing frustration. "Because it's flooding my property. How come it can't get cleaned out? Time is important to me. Because it's already cost me two years' crops."

When Peterson asked Brunsvold how he knew what the original depth of the ditch would be, Brunsvold said he would look at culverts installed when the ditch was built to get an original estimate. He said when going through a wetland area, ditches can't be dug any deeper than they were originally.

"They do allow for overdigging," Madden said. "There's a margin for error."

Brunsvold said there was a four- to six-inch allowance for undercutting to allow for the original silting.

Madden asked Hellyer to come to the next board meeting in two weeks to see how work was progressing on securing the state and federal go-ahead.

"There's also things you can do upstream that can improve that," Hellyer said.

Madden said the board could move ahead with contacting local contractors who might be interested in doing the work. Peterson asked if area landowners could be informed about where the process is going, and Madden said state code provides for that when plans get to a certain stage.



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