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Tensions mount in drainage discussion

By Staff | Jun 16, 2010

A conference call Tuesday between drainage trustees in Emmet, Kossuth and Palo Alto counties brought out some strong opinions – by all parties.

Drainage District No. 37 in Emmet County consists of 15,459 acres and outlets into EPK (Emmet, Palo Alto, Kossuth) Drainage District No. 84, consisting of 26,944 acres a half-mile north of Ringsted. Brent Johnson, engineer for McClure Engineering Company, had recommended an outlet charge to DD 37 for 30 percent of repair excavation costs in the EPK 84 main ditch, or about $250,000.

In a May 13 letter, attorney James Hudson, representing EPK 84, offered an opinion that a previous decision in 1917 that no outlet charge would be required for DD 37 was no longer valid. Rather, Hudson said that while the charge was not required, the board of EPK 84 had “the discretion to make an outlet charge.” Hudson also said individual landowners in DD 37 do not receive notice, just the trustees.

Emmet County’s position is that DD 37 existed before EPK 84 and that it had an adequate fall into the natural waterway which was later reworked as the main ditch for EPK 84.

Addressing the situation in the conference call Tuesday, Alan Madden, Emmet County supervisor, said the estimated 30 percent, or $250,000, assessment to landowners in DD 37 “is too stiff.” While he agreed the landowners would receive some benefit, he said it was not 30 percent of the benefit.

“They (landowners) consider this to be a one-time deal,” Madden said. “They’re not going to participate in an outlet charge every time. We’re considering this to be a one-time thing and no more outlet charges until they have to clean it out again 100 years from now.”

When asked how much DD 37 would be willing to pay, Madden said 10 percent would be more appropriate.

Don McGregor, Kossuth County supervisor, said landowners in DD 37 had no part in the hearing.

“They will be invited,” said supervisor Jim Jenson. “If Emmet County is involved, they’re invited.’

McGregor said if anyone isn’t happy with EPK 84’s decision they can go to district court.

“We’re telling you there will be a lawsuit if something isn’t negotiated,” Jenson said. “These (Emmet County) trustees aren’t going to vote without the people knowing what their cost is.”

Apparently, a reclassification has been filed which includes the outlet charge for DD 37. The joint boards approved a public hearing on the reclassification report 1 p.m. Aug. 24 in the Kossuth County assembly room. The engineer’s report will follow the same day at 3 p.m.