Bridge owners promise cooperation to alleviate floodingApril 16, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
The Dubois County Commissioners discussed several matters concerning flooding when they met Monday night as the county drainage board to discuss a problem some neighbors have with blockage that happens at an 80-year-old bridge that crosses Bruner Creek. The neighbors said at the commissioners’ April 1 meeting that the bridge restricts the water flow because sediment collects under the bridge.
Scot Blessinger owns the land on which the bridge sits. He and his son, Brady Blessinger, came to Monday’s meeting to point out that there are blockage problems all along the creek.
“To say that this stems from one bridge, that’s not true,” Brady Blessinger said. “I’m not debating that it doesn’t help with the issue (of flooding), but it’s not the only issue.”
He said there are other places along the creek that have sediment buildup. Brady Blessinger then showed the commissioners other areas along the waterway and along Hunley Creek, which connects to Bruner Creek, where water is restricted from flowing.
Brady Blessinger showed photos of Bruner Creek near First Street in Huntingburg as well as several areas along Hunley Creek, including near County Road 400 South and near County Road 130 West.
“The water is backed up with no place to get out,” Brady Blessinger said of the area near U.S. 231. “It can’t drain out into Hunley Creek. Water is standing still.
“There is no outlet because of the level of Patoka River,” Brady Blessinger said. “There is no place for the backwater to go.”
Brady Blessinger said the sediment under the bridge was cleaned Wednesday, after he heard about the problem. Scot Blessinger also said neighbors have worked together each year to get it cleaned out.
Scot Blessinger said the bridge gives him access to all of his land. Otherwise, he’d have to take his tractor along a county road to get to part of his land.
“I’m willing to work with you,” he told the other landowners at the meeting, “if you stop calling the commissioners, and just talk to me.”
“If you have the bridge, you ought to keep it maintained,” Myron Stemle said. “We shouldn’t have to keep calling and calling.” Stemle has 114 acres of land near State Road 64 about a mile east of Bruner Creek.
“I agree,” Scot Blessinger said. “But how do you get a backhoe back there if it’s flooded? [The water] was over the bridge. My thing is that we work together on it, work with commissioners to get this dredged.”
Commissioner Elmer Brames said if the county gets involved, there may be an assessment fee for each landowner to pay to fix the entire matter.
The drainage board agreed the bridge is not the only problem in this matter. County Surveyor Kenny Brosmer, who is also part of the drainage board, said the waterway is long, and dealing with it in its entirety could be expensive.
Board members told the landowners to try and work out a solution among themselves, and the county would be willing to help with the solution where needed. If a compromise can’t be found, the landowners can come back to the board.
“If you need assistance, we’re here,” Commissioner Chad Blessinger said. “I would rather partner with you than us coming in and saying that this is what we will do.”
Elevating the intersection of Stewart Road and Division Road was also discussed Monday. Marty Steltenpohl told the commissioners that people living along the road are blocked in when the nearby Patoka River floods the intersection. He told the commissioners about the problem last year.
County Engineer Brent Wendholt said the matter is being worked on. To build up the intersection will take about 2,400 cubic feet of dirt, which needs to be found. And the right of way in the area is limited. And then there is a matter of beavers building in the area, which causes another problem.
“There are a lot of obstacles with this,” he said, “with the money being the biggest hurdle. It’s far from being impossible, but it will be expensive.”
They discussed putting a gravel road in around a landowner’s property to give residents access, but it would only be for residents and only for times the intersection floods. The commissioners told the county highway department to research the possibility as well.
The commissioners accepted fly-over images of Dubois County that show flooded areas, which will be used to update its GIS mapping system. Woolpert of Indianapolis flew over the county last year and this year, but each time there were areas that were flooded, Wendholt said. The fly-overs are done at this time of the year because the trees are bare and land can be seen. The commissioners said the images could be an asset because they show what county areas are prone to flooding.
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