Bridge impacting drainage along Bruner Creek


Next week, the Dubois County Commissioners will meet to discuss a drainage matter, which is one of the board’s more obscure, yet important duties.

The commissioners and County Surveyor Kenny Brosmer will meet at 9 a.m. Monday, April 15, as the county drainage board.

The discussion will be about drainage problems along Bruner Creek, a creek that sits east of Huntingburg and flows north and south.

“There’s hardly any flow anymore,” landowner Myron Stemle told the commissioners last week. “It’s an issue every year, and it seems like it’s getting worse.”

The problem stems from an 80-year-old bridge that crosses the creek. “Under that bridge, there’s so much sediment, there’s hardly any flow anymore,” Stemle said.

He has 114 acres about a mile east of the creek. “It’s almost a third under water,” he said. “That should have easily drained.”

Ralph Wagner, who lives on State Road 64 just east of Hunley and Bruner creeks, explained the history of the bridge, which is now on private property. Hunley Creek flows into Bruner Creek. He said that the state built the bridge about 80 years ago and later sold it to the county. The county eventually sold the land on which the bridge sits. The current landowner had no intentions of removing the bridge, Wagner said.

“That bridge is still the same way as it was 80 years ago,” he said.

And with years of erosion, the bridge is no longer high enough or wide enough to allow the water to flow through underneath.

“So anytime you have debris that floats on the creek, it catches on the bridge and clogs up,” Wagner said.

Surrounding landowners chip in money to get the waterway cleared out. But “the next 2-inch rain, it’s clogged up again,” Wagner said. “And then all the property owners, 10,000 acres, they all suffer crop damage.”

In addition, the standing water is not moving. “We have this water, it’s only 2 feet deep, that sits there for months,” Wagner said. “What does it attract? Mosquitoes. And we’re talking about the West Nile virus? We’re in trouble.”

Both Brosmer and County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg said that removing the bridge would likely solve the problem. But the commissioners said they don’t know if they can do that legally.

“We have to figure out what we can and cannot do,” Commissioners President Chad Blessinger said.

The commissioners will discuss those options April 15 as the drainage board. In the meantime, they directed County Attorney Greg Schnarr to research the county’s legal rights and responsibility for clearing and maintaining the waterway, including if the county could remove a bridge for that reason.

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