By ROBERT WOLF
DAKOTA CITY - A proposed drainage district northeast of Gilmore City may never become a reality and the landowners may lose a $1.5 million state grant, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors learned Monday.
"There has been significant filing opposed to this project," said Drainage Engineer Rick Hopper of Jacobson-Westergard & Associates, Estherville. "At this time it appears they have more than enough to meet remonstrance on the project."
A remonstrance requires the support of more than 50 percent of the landowners owning more that 70 percent of the land in a drainage district to stop a drainage improvement.
Hopper has estimated the project cost at between $2 million and $2.5 million depending on the capacity of the new system. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has earmarked $1.5 million for the project.
The state was interested in the project, which would provide alternative drainage and allow the closure of 12 agricultural drainage wells in the area.
"It is fairly easy to simply close an agriculture well," Hopper said. "The biggest cost is providing alternative drainage."
Mike Bourland, IDALS environmental engineer, said the remaining well permits will expire around 2020 and will probably not be renewed.
Bourland said if the project is stopped, the money would go toward other projects and there may not be funding available in the future when closure of the wells is mandated.
Supervisor Harlan Hansen said he believes there is false or bad information circulating among landowners about a problem with the contractor of a similar project nearby.
"That contractor is not going to do this project, that's a mute point," he said.
Getting drainage at an estimated cost of $250 an acre with the high prices which farmland is going for these days, "it's a no-brainer to go ahead with this project," Hansen said.
"Personally I hate to see this project die when you can get that kind of drainage for that cost ... but it's the landowners' decision," he said.
Landowners need to have a wetland determination done on their property for the project to continue.
"I think it is the position of the board to try to get as much information out to the landowners as possible so they can form a decision," said County Drainage Attorney Dave Johnson. "Obviously the board is here to serve the landowners and they want to provide you with as much information as possible. We are not going to withhold anything from the landowners."
Johnson said he and Drainage Clerk Trish Egli will analyze the remonstrance to see if the requirements are met.
Johnson recommended the board go beyond the requirements of the Iowa Code and have information about the remonstrance available on Nov. 18 for the landowners to consider before the Dec. 2 final hearing. If people want to change their mind about the remonstrance, they should do so in writing, he said.
If the project is stopped, the cost incurred so far would be covered by the bond filed by the original petitioners. If someone files a future petition for the project, the engineer report will still be good but the petitioner would have to file a new bond, Johnson said.