Site will show permits needed for ditch work

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

A website is being created to help landowners who need to know what permits are needed for work on their ditches.

State Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper, and State Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, said the site is being tested, and will be announced to all when it is ready to be used.

“That’s been a big issue for farmers, particularly farmers in our area,” Lindauer said recently. “If you have a ditch running through your property, these ditches require yearly maintenance. Farmer are having to, at times, get a permit from [the Indiana Department of Environmental Management], at times get a permit from [the Department of Natural Resources], sometimes both, sometimes neither, sometimes both and the Army Corps of Engineers.”

Farmers contacted their legislators last year about the problems. A series of meetings brought out hundreds of farmers and landowners who came to talk to Lindauer, as well as representatives of the state agencies.

Lindauer has been working on the matter ever since.

“The problem is that there is so many moving parts on this issue,” he said. “You’ve got three layers of government that’s involved, and figuring out which layer to tap to peel back some stuff, to make things easier.”

A way to make the process easier is to have a single point of contact, he said. IDEM and DNR are working on that, which will be done through a website. The agencies are testing the website and the process.

A link will be on IDEM and DNR’s webpage, Messmer explained. A person can fill in a description of what they want to do, and an address of the location. It tells the person what forms have to be filled out and leads them to websites to do that.

“It will cue you in on every step you need to take,” Messmer said. “And you are guided through the process with one single entrance point.”

The other improvement includes cutting down on the time that permits are issued. “If you have a limited window for planting, and you have to get through your ditch to your field, you can’t wait 60 to 90 days to get this done,” Lindauer said. “You have to have a tighter window on that.”

They told the agencies this, and Lindauer said he thinks the agencies understand this. “We’re getting some movement on that,” he said.

The permitting process will never go away entirely.

“The fact of the matter is that what you do on your property and in your ditch does impact what happens up and downstream,” Lindauer said “So we’ve got to try to balance that with being able to manage your own property, which a lot of these farmers have been doing for generations.

“So we’re trying to strike a good balance there, and in the process, make it easier for farmers to do what they need to do.”

Once the website is ready, Messmer and Lindauer said they will alert the public, and will also encourage all legislators to do so.




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