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Cass County Board: Commissioners decline to abandon Ditch 9

The Cass County Board Tuesday declined to abandon Drainage Ditch 9 (indicated here by the wide red line) after only 12 of 36 property owners along it signed the petition to abandon - and not enough of the signers were on a single leg of the ditch, so a portion could be abandoned. Screen grab from Cass County Interactive Web Mapping.

BACKUS—Drainage Ditch 9 could be put back to sleep for another 100 years.

The Cass County Board Tuesday declined to abandon it after only 12 of 36 property owners along it signed the petition to abandon—and not enough of the signers were on a single leg of the ditch, so a portion could be abandoned.

The county from 2017-2017 levied $30,000 from properties originally taxed to install the ditch in 1918.

The county has used all but about $1,000 of that money to trap beavers, remove their dams, do minor excavation, pay attorney fees for advice on ditches and remove brush along the ditch.

The board voted unanimously to spend any funds remaining after current bills are paid to continue trapping beavers and removing their dams. The money likely will be gone by year end, Administrator Joshua Stevenson said.

At Tuesday's hearing, landowners Jim Rice and James Ellman told the board the county should have re-dug the ditch to a depth of 4 feet and a width of 12 feet. They said they had received no benefit from the work done to date and opposed any new expenditures for anything else short of those full dimensions.

Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk said the county board will not consider any new petitions to clean the ditch or levy any more money for it until a new hydrological study is done first to determine today's water flows.

Stevenson said that flowage likely had changed since 1918. There is a new road system that was not there in 1918, he said. The rains today are different from rain events in 1918, he added.

Five years ago, when the county asked for bids for a hydrological study, the bids came back at $40,000.

There was no interest shown by Rice and Ellman or other Ditch 9 neighbors for paying that much for a hydrological study then or now.

They also opposed the $3,576.50 the county has spent from the existing levy for legal services, but one thing gained from that advice is that the residents now are told they can legally clean the ditch however they want at any point along it that is on their own property.

Five years ago, they were told they could not.

The board's vote Tuesday means they commissioners will no longer do anything to the ditch once the existing levy runs out at the end of this year.

If the board receives a new petition to clean the ditch and levy for it, the commissioners indicated they would first require a hydrological study paid for from a new tax levy before the ditch cleaning could begin.

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