Fate of soil from lake, dam repairs gets complicated


HUNTINGBURG — Getting dirt from the Huntingburg Conservation Club’s lake for the Huntingburg Airport’s future runway is complicated.

The Dubois County Airport Authority is under the impression the dirt will be free, so long as the authority hauls it away.

But county officials have heard that the club may be expecting some payment for the dirt or some in-kind services that would be used to repair the lake.

That difference in understanding was discussed at the airport authority’s Monday meeting.

Curtis Brown of Indianapolis engineering firm Woolpert Inc. told the airport board that some of the estimated 125,000 cubic yards of soil that they were told was going to be removed, may need to be used to repair the lake dam. But “I expect them to have some excess,” he said.

Before accepting any dirt, it will have to be tested to make sure it’s environmentally suitable for the runway project. That will include testing for heavy metals and pesticides. Because of that, the testing will cost about $14,500, Brown said. Last month, the testing was estimated to cost about $7,000.

The conservation club is trying to get its lake and dam repaired. Heavy rains that hit the area in late April and early May 2017 exposed a problem with the dam’s drainage. Because there was too much rain for the dam to handle, the water washed away some of the bank around the dam and underneath County Road 100 West. For safety reasons, the lake and the section of County Road 100 West that includes the dam were closed indefinitely until repairs can be made.

The repairs must be up to state standards since the lake and dam are taller than 20 feet, and in previous talks, those costs were estimated to be as much as $500,000.

The county has agreed to use on the project the $150,000 it would take to get the county road reopened, so long as the repair work saves the road from needing to be moved. The Dubois County Commissioners also agreed to give the club time to raise money needed to do engineering work to design a permanent repair. That August deadline has passed; therefore, the club is expected to give commissioners an update on plans for the lake at the commissioners’ Sept. 4 meeting, said County Commissioner Chad Blessinger, who attended the airport board’s meeting.

Blessinger asked what the airport board’s understanding was on their agreement with the conservation club. Brown explained that his understanding is that the airport will take the excess soil from the lake. “As they have the excess, we are the disposal site for the excess soil,” he said.

“Has there been any discussion on the airport paying for any of this,” Blessinger asked, “paying for the soil or doing any tit-for-tat (work), to the conservation group?”

That is what county officials have heard was the plan, he indicated. Airport Board President Jim Hunsicker said a definite no.

Brown added that everything has been verbal talks; there is no written agreement.

Bernie Main, president of the conservation club, was out of town and unable to attend Monday’s meeting.

The airport board decided to table its decision on getting the dirt tested until after the commissioners’ Sept. 4 meeting.

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