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February 4, 2008 Tape # 003

The White County Drainage Board convened at 10:35 A.M. in the Commissioners’ Room of the White County Building, Monticello, Indiana, with Board Members John Heimlich and Steve Burton, Attorney George W. Loy, Surveyor Dennis Sterrett, Drainage Assistant Mary Sterrett and Secretary Jamie Rozzi in attendance. Board Member Ron Schmierer was not in attendance.

Honey Creek/Wolf Drainage Board members in attendance were Ron Allen, Michael Lehe, and Attorney Jerry Altman. Dolick/Hoagland Drainage Board members in attendance were Russell Sickler, Orville Mathew, and Attorney John Million.

Others in attendance were Daniel Davis and Amie Lester from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), County Highway Superintendent Steve Brooke and landowner David Lachmund.

 

Chairman Burton opened the meeting asking for approval of the minutes for the January 21st, 2008 meeting. Board Member Heimlich moved to approve the minutes as presented. Board Member Burton seconded the motion. Motion carried.

 

The second item on the agenda is NRCS to explain the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Board Member Heimlich explained, “Last Tuesday we met with Alyson Keaton, Daniel Davis, and Amie Lester out west of Reynolds looking at some issues caused by the flooding in early January. They had discussed some of their programs that might be able to help, but we weren’t sure if it would be something that would be beneficial or not. I felt that the Wolf Ditch and the Dolick Ditch are probably affected just as much as the other ditches in the county and since those have private boards I asked Surveyor Sterrett to contact them and have them attend this meeting where we can kind of discuss some of the flood related issues are. We also hope to have, I talked to Gordy Cochran this morning, someone from FEMA here this morning to come and discuss whether or not there is some reimbursement available there for some of these drainage issues as well.”

 

Each board then introduced themselves. Board Member Heimlich then asked Mr. Davis and Ms. Lester to explain the NRCS program.

 

Mr. Davis explained, “I will start off by introducing myself. My name is Dan Davis and I am the district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service here in White County. We have a program that is made to help out after natural disasters. It is called the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. It basically provides funding for the repair of damage caused by natural disasters, as in this case, flooding. There is funding there for ditches, waterways, roads and those kinds of repairs. I know the most pressing issue is the removal of debris and sediment from cropland. It is something that is eligible through the program; unfortunately the timeline that we are looking at is probably not going to be very good. The timeline is a minimum of six months if not longer. The backlog nationally is something like $22 million dollars and they are funding the applications as they come in. We did want to come and tell you what is available out there and run through the process that we need to go through if it is something that you want to pursue.”

 

Attorney Altman asked, “Could you just walk us through that process step-by-step and show us the paperwork that would be involved? We have some real damage caused by the flooding. I was just handed some picture that shows some significant damage to our ditch.”

 

Ms. Lester explained, “The Emergency Watershed Program is set up in two different categories. One of those is what they call Exigent, which means that the problem needs to be taken care of immediately that it affects landowners; possible loss of life, loss of property and it needs to be handled in a very quick manner. It is easier to obtain funding if you fall in this category. However, our program needs a sponsor and it needs to affect a larger portion of people or loss of life for those. Our other program still falls under emergency because of the program that it is in, but it falls into another category where you are put on a list and as funds become available then you would be able to possibly draw from that fund. That is the fund that Mr. Davis was talking about, the fund that is at $22 million. This is a national program so all natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods, forest fires, everything comes from the same fund. The $22 million is the backlog of funds that have been requested and that is nationwide. The exigent situations are supposed to have a sponsor, a local entity such as county or city government, and willing to pay for a portion of it. Typically it is 25% and then the other 75% the Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) would pay for if you were approved for the program.”

 

Board Member Heimlich asked, “Since those two ditches have their own boards, would that board be the sponsor? Those two boards control those assessments.”

 

Ms. Lester replied, “There is a question…we have been tossing that around. Typically it has to come from the county government so I am not sure how you are set up with the drainage ditches if they would be able to be the sponsor, or if it would need to be the county and then the county and ditch board come up with a solution. I am not really sure how that would work. Typically we’ve only worked with the county governments and we’ve worked with the county commissioners that have been the one that has been the approved sponsors.”

 

“Are you the contact person for this?” Attorney Altman asked Ms. Lester.

 

Ms. Lester replied, “I am one contact. Mr. Davis would be the contact here for White County.”

 

Mr. Davis added, “As far as requesting, we have to have a written request.”

 

“Do you have the forms for that?” Attorney Altman asked.

 

“It is a letter that you write to the state conservationist. We do have a sample letter that you would be able to view and we can make sure that Mr. Davis has a copy of that. The one concern is that with the exigent situation we are supposed to receive a letter within 10 days after the site is accessible. So, it maybe already be too late to apply for that situation. There might be a case or two where they have not been accessible, but we might be pushing the timeline on that,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“Is that 75% a grant or a loan?” Attorney Million asked.

 

Ms. Lester replied, “The 75% is a grant, but you do have to enter into a contract with NRCS. It is a project agreement that has to be signed. That only includes the construction costs; it does not include the design. However, we do have engineers available to do the design for you if that is needed.”

 

Board Member Burton asked, “You said earlier that it would take at least 6 months….is it possible that with many of these grants that you cannot start until you actually receive the funding. Is this something that you can do and work out to where they can remove it now and still be eligible for the refund?”

 

“If there is a situation where you could do a temporary measure in order to hold the problem until a permanent solution can be installed then you can move forward with that. However, if you are going to be doing the permanent solution then you have to wait for the funding to become available and for the project agreement to be signed,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

Board Member Burton continued, “Again with the short term, the funding is different. Is it available or do you get thrown into the one where everyone applies?”

 

Ms. Lester explained,” It is available if you are accepted, however, it is supposed to be submitted within 10 days from when the site is accessible.”

 

“So if we meet these guidelines and the area landowners that need reconstruction and stalks removed, we could get pre-approved and go ahead and permanently remove the stalks or reconstruct…,” Board Member Burton explained.

 

“You wouldn’t be able to do the permanent measure until we enter a project agreement. The project agreement will not be signed until we have funds available,” Ms. Lester stated.

 

Mr. Davis explained, “If you get in and qualify as an exigency, then that is coming from a separate fund and that is immediately available. It will not take 6 months.”

 

Board Member Heimlich stated, “The situation that you looked at the other day with the mountains of stalks and obviously that land cannot be farmed until that is cleaned up…Is that?”

 

“It is possible; however, it is questionable whether loss of life or loss of property would come about from that, except for one particular farmer. This program is supposed to cover several landowners…we could possibly look at doing one landowner but we have to do an economic analysis, a social analysis, and environmental analysis and most likely one landowner is not going to qualify. The program really isn’t set up for that,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

Board Member Heimlich explained, “The mess wasn’t really one landowner. It was put there to clear the ditch or there would be continued flooding out to the west.”

 

“We can definitely look at that program. There is also another program that is administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA) called the Emergency Conservation Program and one of the major things with their program is actually cleaning up crop fields. So, that might be another option for those particular landowners if they are interested. I don’t have all the information on that program though because it is administered through the FSA,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

Attorney Altman stated, “I think from that example there, I bet that would affect several landowners drainage with the piles of stalks you are talking about. So, it probably would be more than one landowner affected, even if it’s only on one person’s property.”

 

Ms. Lester continued, “We talked about that when we were out there. I think that it is possible for the situation that we looked at that we could apply for EWP funds. The concern would be that I don’t think it would fall under exigent situation. So, it wouldn’t be cleaned up in the timeframe that we would like it to be removed.”

 

“In other words, it’s probably not a realistic possibility of getting in under the exigent category. The other fund that we talked about…we could get an application for that and hopefully get funded, but as far as the quick fix and the immediate funding that is not realistic,” Mr. Lehe stated.

 

“If you have a representative from FEMA coming, they are normally able to come in and help with situations like that. They might be able to provide more of the program that you looking for. There are several emergency funds available from the federal government and FEMA administers those after it has been declared an emergency. So, they may be a group to talk to as well. However, if there are some projects that you know need to be done and are not high priority, but you would be interested in possibly getting funding in the future definitely put your application in and we’ll see what we can do. If it is ok if it waits for a year to get taken care of then it would be fine. You have 60 days to apply for non-exigent projects,” Ms. Lester stated.

 

Attorney Million asked, “60 days from today or 60 days from when?”

 

“60 days from when the site is first accessible,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“So if there are stream bank erosion issues or ditches that have a bunch of stalks and they are completely flooded, those are going to be cleaned out immediately. Things that don’t have to be done immediately would be more realistic for our program,” Mr. Davis explained.

 

“In this situation, are we just looking at the stalk problem as being the only issue? I know we are talking about erosion and that sort of thing, but those stalks accumulated there, is that not part of a bigger problem and we’re talking about the way the bridge is…..my question is do we have to look at the stalks as being the permanent fix or could that not be a by-product of a bigger problem?” an audience member asked.

 

“The program is set-up to not enhance what was already out there. It is to restore things back to their original condition before the natural disaster. If you are talking about putting in a new bridge or something wouldn’t be able to make things bigger or better,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“If we have a headwall wash out as a result of the flooding, we can make an application to restore the headwall, correct?” Attorney Million asked.

 

Ms. Lester replied, “Yes, that is correct.”

 

“Can we fix it and then wait the 6 months and be reimbursed or do we have to wait 6 months to get reimbursement to fix it?” Mr. Sickler asked.

 

“In order for us to enter a contract, we need the funding behind it. So, you wouldn’t be able to fix the problem until we are under a contract unless there was a way you could do a temporary solution. We wouldn’t be able to come back and pay for the temporary solution, but we would be able to come out and assist with the permanent solution.” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“So, what you are saying is that anything we would do prior to what is considered a permanent fix would be funding ourselves,” an audience member stated.

 

Mr. Lachmund stated, “I am the tenant on that farm and I have spent quite a bit of time working on the problem. Is it right that the county can be reimbursed for the ditch work that has already been done there with excavators to fix that immediate problem that we had to deal with which would be the two large piles of stalks that we have on the ditch bank now? That can be covered right?”

 

“No, if the work has already been done we would not be able to reimburse…,” Ms. Lester stated.

 

“What he is talking about…wouldn’t that fall under the emergency situation?” Board Member Heimlich asked.

 

Mr. Lachmund stated, “That is probably half of the battle right now. We have 25 acres of stalks 1 ½ foot deep in the field now. All of the stalks dipped out of that ditch, we had to get rid of them or the water was not going to flow.”

 

Ms. Lester replied, “I understand that, but it is not reimbursable. Until we become involved with the program we can’t reimburse for work previously done.”

 

“You are suggesting that we should have come to you before that was started and that possibly would have fallen under the emergency program,” an audience member stated.

 

“I’m definitely not suggesting that. You need to do what you need to do to protect your landowners and everything. There are several different programs and I am not sure what the agencies are able to do with that, but the way our program is set up from Washington D.C. it does not allow us to refund on things that were previously done before we entered into a project agreement. So, unfortunately it is not something we are able to do because of the limitations of the program,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“Surveyor Sterrett, that wash out on the Big Monon...have you been up there to look at that or have you just seen the pictures like I have?” Board Member Heimlich asked.

 

“No, I just saw the photos,” Surveyor Sterrett replied.

 

“I wonder if that is something that we might put in for,” Board Member Heimlich stated.

 

Surveyor Sterrett added, “I asked one of the representatives from up there to come to the meeting but he couldn’t make it at the last minute.”

 

“That might be something even on our ditch out on 39. I haven’t been up there to see it or anything, but I did hear that there were some wash outs on the banks again. That would probably come under some of this that we could get some reimbursement from,” an audience member stated.

 

“The thing is though, is that it has to be something that you can live with for a while,” Board Member Heimlich stated.

 

“Right, we could live with that for a while, it’s a rip-rap job and that gets awfully expensive, but we might be able to benefit from that for the county if we work on something like that,” Mr. Sickler stated.

 

Attorney Million stated, “But we would have to apply and have funds approved and a contract approved and signed before any funds could be used for that project.”

 

“We would go as a board…would we go through the commissioners here for that?” Mr. Sickler asked.

 

Ms. Lester explained, “I am not sure exactly how….as far as I know you need to go through the county.”

 

“The commissioners are the county, so we would submit a claim to them…,” Mr. Sickler stated.

 

“Right, we would need to receive a letter from a representative of the county and they would have to be willing to say that they are a sponsor and would be able to contribute 25% either of actual funds or in kind services. So, in kind services are accepted you just need to state how you are planning to…,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“This is what I talked to you about the other day. Our share would be out of the maintenance fund for that ditch, and they have their own fund,” Board Member Heimlich explained.

 

Attorney Loy further explained, “This is the county Drainage Board. We are missing one member, but the county drainage board has jurisdiction over all county drains with a couple of exceptions. These ditches were in existence and privately maintained. Attorney Million can explain it.”

 

Attorney Million explained, “Our board was appointed by the judge and Circuit Court and they have a three member board. We do our own assessments and send out ditch statements separately.”

 

“The county does not administer…they have their own jurisdiction over those drains. I guess it doesn’t have to be the county,” Attorney Loy suggested.

 

Ms. Lester stated, “Right, I guess my recommendation in this case would be for you to submit a joint letter. If the county is willing to be the sponsor if the other board is not able to and in the letter include that you could prefer that the separate board sponsor their own project and go from there. I would not be the one making the decision on that, they would have to check the legality of that.”

 

Board Member Heimlich asked, “So, each of these projects is going to have to be spelled out, it’s not just that we've got a series of washouts that we have to repair. You are going to have to list each one, right?”

 

Ms. Lester replied, “Right, you could give an area. You could give a drainage ditch between this county road and this county road has five repairs that need to be made. It can be requested in that manner as well.”

 

“I know that Surveyor Sterrett is and I am assuming that the other boards are still compiling a list…you don’t know yet where all of the problems are,” Board Member Heimlich stated.

 

Mr. Sickler stated, “It sounds like, we were just discussing it, that you would rather we have it as one in the county instead of three…you would rather just have one in charge, like the commissioners in the county.”

 

Ms. Lester replied, “Typically that is the way it is done.”

 

Mr. Sickler continued, “So we would submit our ditch to them…”

 

“And they would just be pledging their maintenance money as the match,” Board Member Heimlich stated.

 

“It all comes from the county anyway, it’s basically county money. So, you countersign our claims anyway, don’t you?” Mr. Sickler asked.

 

“They used to, they don’t anymore, but they used to,” Attorney Million stated.

 

“In the letter that you submit, I would have both entities signing it and request in the letter that the specific drainage board is the sponsor and see how our agency handles that,” Ms. Lester stated.

 

“To start these applications, to get these applications, who do we go through specifically?” Chairman Burton asked.

 

“You can work with Dan (Davis). We have a sample letter that you can use as a guide and he can give you the contact information for our state conservationist. The application is actually the letter describing the situation and what you are asking for,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“Dan works out of an office here in White County over on the west side of town. I am actually from Lebanon. The engineer for this area could make it today so that is why I am here,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“She (Alyson Keaton) is based out of Rensselaer, correct?” Board Member Heimlich asked.

 

Attorney Altman asked, “How soon can we get a copy of that letter so we can get started?”

 

“I can mail, email, or fax it,” Mr. Davis stated.

 

Board Member Heimlich asked, “Mr. Allen, have you guys discussed that out there by 300 West out by the railroad….how to proceed with that?”

 

“We were going to meet following this meeting. We have talked between us, but this is the first opportunity we have had to discuss it,” Mr. Allen explained.

 

Board Member Heimlich stated, “I wish the FEMA representative would have been here. Apparently he is running late.’

 

“Is there money set up for emergencies? In other words, that is not for that kind of project. There is no emergency money…” one audience member stated.

 

“Well, in listening to this the other day I didn’t think that, time wise, it just doesn’t fit. Hopefully…and I talked to Gordy Cochran about this late Friday afternoon, that is why I thought the FEMA representative might be here today, Gordy thought that we could apply through FEMA for that money. It certainly should cover, I think, what happened out there at the railroad bridge, but I don’t have anything in writing on that at this point,” Board Member Heimlich explained.

 

“Mr. Davis, would you suggest that our farmers not do anything at all with the fields and let them sit as is before the application is approved or would it be permissible to push corn stalks out of the way? You still have a huge problem to deal with….would you say that these acres are going to have to be unfarmed to get any help from your program because pushing them off of the field will allow most of the field to be farmed with a small amount of work. The real task is the disposal,” Mr. Lehe asked

 

“With this second type of funding that we are talking about…even if you start the work that is the way they are going to look at it. Basically, it would be ineligible,” Mr. Davis replied.

 

“So you wouldn’t even want to see someone take a match out there and even burn any of them off. You would like to see them completely unaltered,” one audience member stated.

 

“It’s not a realistic thing…obviously the ground is unfarmable with all of the stalks on it. I realize that it is a problem, but it is not something that we are going to be of any help with,” Mr. Davis explained.

 

Ms. Lester continued, “For that specific situation I would also check with the Farm Service Agency and see what they have available. With debris in the field, they might be able to cover that. They do not need a sponsor for that program; they can work the individual landowners.”

 

“What did you say that program was called?” Board Member Heimlich asked.

 

“ECP, Emergency Conservation Program,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“So, are you the contact person for that program, Mr. Davis?” Attorney Altman asked.

 

“That could be the Farm Service Agency,” Mr. Davis replied.

 

Mr. Lachmund explained, “This is kind of a cause and effect again, this involves Surveyor Sterrett, the Honey Creek basically diverted to the east of 300 West and pretty much ruined the railroad right-of-way back there and took part of the field.”

 

“We looked at that when we were out there,” Board Member Heimlich stated.

 

“We talked about that when we were out there, but I think that you weren’t happy with the timeline. You were thinking that it could be fixed prior to that without our funds,” Ms. Lester stated.

 

Board Member Heimlich stated, “Six months on that seems like a long time. I would even think that the railroad would be concerned about that.”

 

“I guess there are no railroad representatives here today, but they are basically the ones that caused the problem in my eyes. I walked down there to see why the wall of water came out 24 hours after it quit raining and I see that there were 50 feet of rails hanging from where is washed out from underneath it. Like Mr. Allen was saying, the permanent situation would be to get rid of the railroad bridge and put a clear span bridge in, but evidently that is out of our jurisdiction to come up with that as a long term solution,” Mr. Lachmund stated.

 

Ms. Lester commented, “We cannot get involved with railroad situations either. That is their own maintenance that they would have to take care of.”

 

“I have a question related to what Mr. Lehe asked earlier about regarding putting the corn stalks in piles and farming around them. I thought what I understood you to say was that you wouldn’t be able to reimburse for putting the corn stalks into piles, but it is still possible we could address hauling those out at a later date. Is it my understanding that is what you are saying correctly there….to allow as much farming to take place as we could…,” an audience member commented.

 

“Right, we can definitely look at that option. One thing to be careful of, I wouldn’t want to get your hopes too high….If it is only affecting one landowner I don’t think it is eligible for the program and even if it was eligible it wouldn’t rank very high. So, if the only thing the corn stalks are doing is preventing the farmers from being able to farm that field, then they probably are not going to get into our program. They are probably more likely to get into the Emergency Conservation Program through Farm Service Agency. The particular case with the debris along side the ditch, that was a bigger concern because it could wash into the ditch and that is where our program is more likely to get involved because it would be affecting more than one landowner because it could plug up the ditch again,” Ms. Lester explained.

 

“Well, if we get a four inch rain it’s going to clog the ditch,” Mr. Lachmund stated.

 

Board Member Heimlich asked, “Have you taken stalks out of any ditches anyplace?”

 

“Just the road side ditches. As I understand it, if it is in the right-of-way and I keep track of the time and hauling expense I can get reimbursed through FEMA,” County Highway Superintendent Brooke explained.

 

“What did you do with those stalks?” Mr. Sickler asked.

 

Superintendent Brooke replied, “I hauled them to Furrers.”

 

“Maybe we should check into that program from FSA,” one audience member suggested.

 

Board Member Heimlich stated, “We can ask. I am not familiar with that program. We do need to find out what the program is about. The other thing is that we need to find out from FEMA exactly what they will reimburse and what paperwork is needed for that.”

 

“We both have the same problem with this railroad track crossing our ditch. We had the same problem one other time. They both need to be repaired, but I am sure that you aren’t going to get the railroad to do that,” one audience member stated.

 

Board Member Burton stated, “We’ll get with Gordy again. The timing didn’t work out today to have someone from FEMA here, but we’ll try to talk with Gordy or get with that individual and find out what our options are. We will rely that to the other boards or someone on the board. We’ve got a couple of different directions here, but obviously no answers for sure, but if no other questions I appreciated everyone coming in.”

 

“I guess if you guys feel that you have some projects that it’s worth taking a shot at through NRCS, we’d be happy to sponsor that,” Board Member Heimlich stated.

 

“When does the sixty day period start?” Attorney Million asked.

 

Ms. Lester replied, “The sixty days is supposed to be from the day the site is accessible, when you can first get to the site and see the damage. When the flooding has gone down enough or…”

 

Chairman Burton asked if there were any further comments regarding NRCS and thanked Mr. Davis and Ms. Lester for attending the meeting and explaining their programs.

 

The next item on the agenda is a request for exemption from the drainage ordinance for Woods’ Subdivision.

 

“Who is actually requesting the exemption?” Chairman Burton asked.

 

Surveyor Sterrett replied, “The surveyor is, Robert Gross. I have given each of you a copy of the letter. This is down by Brookston down and the landowner is now Doug Woods. He wants to subdivide the house that is already on the property. He wants to build another house further back on the bank. I believe he has 8.03 acres there total.”

 

“He basically wants to subdivide the old home so he can build a new house?” Chairman Burton asked.

 

Surveyor Sterrett explained, “There is a fairly new house there. I don’t know how old it is. When I got a copy of the plat he didn’t have it quite done. He is cutting out 1.211 acres.”

 

“The natural drainage would be towards the woods?” Chairman Burton asked.

 

Surveyor Sterrett replied, “Yes, it all goes toward Spring Creek.”

 

“What is your recommendation?” Chairman Burton asked.

 

“I don’t see any problem with having two houses on eight acres. I don’t see there being any drainage problem,” Surveyor Sterrett replied.

 

“Does he own both of them or is he going to sell the one?” Board Member Heimlich asked.

 

Surveyor Sterrett replied, “He is going to sell the one. He didn’t want to cut three acres for that house. So, since it had already had one acre cut out of it he had to go with a subdivision. He just wants to sell the house that is currently there.”

 

“Nothing that he does will affect the drainage on the existing house, right?” Board Member Heimlich asked.

 

“No, nothing at all,” Surveyor Sterrett replied.

 

“What he is asking for is an exemption from the drainage ordinance simply for subdivision purposes. Now, if he builds something on there down the road that has a big enough structure then he will have to come back,” Attorney Loy stated.

 

“We are only approving the existing house as a subdivision,” Chairman Burton stated.

 

Board Member Heimlich moved to grant the exemption from the drainage ordinance for Woods’ Subdivision. Chairman Burton seconded the motion. Motion carried.

 

Surveyor Sterrett showed several photos of issues with several drains related to the flooding in early January. He showed a wash on the Ackerman on Monty Moss’ property. Surveyor Sterrett showed photos of the Honey Creek where all the corn stalks were and the railroad bridge. He further explained that the water pretty much took the slopes off of the ditch and that the slopes were pretty well vertical right now.

 

“Due to the stalks plugging up at the railroad bridge, that water went east for about another mile where it went into the George Bossung ditch. It went across that road by the substation,” Board Member Heimlich explained.

 

“So the stalks just accumulated on the poles of the railroad bridge?” Chairman Burton asked.

 

“Yes,” replied Board Member Heimlich.

 

“What did he mean when he said the rails were just dangling there?” Surveyor Sterrett asked.

 

Board Member Heimlich replied, “Well, it washed out east of the bridge there. It washed out underneath the railroad.”

 

Chairman Burton asked if there was anything further for the drainage board. Chairman Burton then adjourned the meeting.