December 22, 2015

Progress nearing, but not yet in reach for flooding concern

By Daniel Arens

Dealing with a flooding swamp bordering the Lake Shore Estates development has been a continuing headache for Mercer County’s water board members. A combination of various government regulations and disagreements between the estate’s representatives and a neighboring landowner have prevented decisive action from taking place.
In recent months, wider discussion has opened up between the landowner, Jerome Boeshans, and the Lake Shore Estates during water board meetings. The water board hopes to see the two sides come together with a proposal both can support, so that a united voice can speak about the flooding concerns to government agencies.
“We’ve had to be reactive, instead of proactive,” water board secretary Greg Lange said, noting that the lack of a deal between the board, the estates, and Boeshans has prevented the water board from pitching a clear idea to national and state agencies. Most people agree that there needs to be a fix to the problem, Lange noted, but everyone has to come together and figure out how.
“I can’t stress enough: communication, communication, and better communication,” Mercer County Commissioner Wes Gunsch said. Gunsch, who regularly attends the water board meetings, knows well how the debate has unfolded so far, and concurred with the board on a need for a larger solution.
Besides the need for an agreement among these parties, the board’s largest challenge lies in getting the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) out of the picture. NRCS regulations have created a stumbling block for moving forward with plans developed by the water board.
The board, the landowner, and the estates agree that it would be preferable to revisit an older plan that involved draining the swamp by transferring water to the east of the road that runs along the east side of the estates and into Lake Sakakawea.
Previously, this plan had met with approval until it ran into problems with regulations. Lange said that the North Dakota State Water Commission was sympathetic to the situation, but was stuck with the rules they had in front of them. Recent conversations between these entities have given the water board hope that some version of the original plan might be able to pass regulatory obstacles.
Gunsch asked about how a cost-share agreement for a drainage solution with state water might work. Water board president Ed Grunett replied that there was no sure way to know, but board members figured that an agreement would be around 50 percent with the state, although preliminary costs would be borne by the county water board.
“Are we sure that this project will help solve the problem?” board member Ruth Julson asked. She noted that the area around the swamp is still being developed by the estates, which “has to have an adverse effect on the water.” The board discussed the topography of the region, noting how water flow would work if drainage is diverted to the east, as the original plan calls for, and whether the drainage would be enough to offset any potential residential impacts from further development.


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