The Bluffs may drain into ditch

The Bluffs may drain into ditch By by David Lias The Clay County Commission agreed Tuesday to grant a drainage permit for The Bluffs golf course/housing development located on Vermillion�s east city limits.

Certain conditions must be met, however. The county will allow excess water from the development to fill the north ditch of the Burbank Road located on the course�s south edge.

The Bluffs, however, must prohibit water from flowing over the road into the south ditch, where it could flood adjoining farmland.

Officials from The Bluffs first visited with the county commission Jan. 4. The commission agreed to continue the hearing on the drainage permit to its Jan. 11 meeting to allow City Engineer William Welk to research The Bluffs� contingency plan.

County Highway Superintendent Art Leifgen was also directed last week to measure the elevations of the land south of The Bluffs to determine where excess water would flow.

Welk told commissioners he was unable to find a contingency plan.

�I found a letter and there�s no mention of any contingency plan, it just points out property owners� concerns about draining water onto their property,� he said.

Leifgen said that once excess water flows into the Burbank Road ditch, it can�t drain away.

�There�s a low spot in the ditch; the ditch basically doesn�t drain.�

There�s also a culvert connecting the north and south ditches of the Burbank Road.

�The flow line of the culvert is slightly higher than the low spot in the ditch, Leifgen said. �So it (the ditch) runs uphill both ways, both east and west,� Leifgen said.

The culvert drops slightly to the south, he added, but Leifgen�s measurements also show that a field begins to rise slightly south of the culvert.

�Basically, the water is not going to flow out of the ditch,� Leifgen said. �It�s not going anywhere.�

�No one at the golf course wants to drain water on anyone�s land, but what�s the culvert even there for?� asked Kirk Hogen, the golf professional at The Bluffs. �If it�s not in there for the purpose of draining the ditch and getting the water eventually to the river so it�s not going on anyone�s land, why is it even there?�

Commission Chairman Jerry Sommervold said it is common to place culverts in roads to equalize water in the ditches on each side during high water situations.

Leifgen said an eventual solution to the drainage problem south of The Bluffs will occur in three or four years when the county completes improvements to the Burbank Road. After a new surface is applied to the road, Leifgen said, curb and gutter will be added to the road.

�The city will put in a storm sewer, and that will take care of that problem,� Leifgen said.

�There are several areas in the county where there is this type of soil in the flat and the water does not move in the ditches,� Sommervold said. �This obviously is in an area where the water, that naturally drains in that area, historically has just soaked away. It really hasn�t moved.�

Mark Clark, golf course superintendent said if The Bluffs area received heavy rains like it did last year, there could be times when the bottom nine holes would have to be shut down because of flooding. That could cost the golf course $10,000 during a single busy summer weekend.

Clark also told commissioners that he wrongly pumped water from the course south into the Burbank Road ditch last summer to relieve flooding. �That was my fault; I was wrong for doing that,� he said.

Leifgen said the lay of the land in the area south of The Bluffs leaves few options for relieving extra drainage. If a culvert were placed in a driveway east of where water is pumped out, the water wouldn�t flow away to the east. It would eventually flow back onto the golf course.

Dave Nelson, director of Vermillion�s Park and Recreation Department, said the golf course designer has indicated that the eventual storm sewer that will be constructed along Burbank Road a few years in the future will be the best way to handle excessive water.

�We know where the water is going,� Nelson said. �Instead of going east on farmland, it�s going on (the 15th fairway), and that�s where we want it to go.�

Nelson added that the excess water experienced at The Bluffs haven�t flowed from the lakes on the golf course.

�The water doesn�t come from the golf course, it comes from the housing development,� he said. �We sandbagged the lakes. The two lakes don�t drain to the bottom. We sandbagged them, and pumped the water into the storm sewer that goes to Crawford Road.

�The water that is coming to the bottom,� he added, �is coming off the housing development, from all the curb and gutter and from around the houses. We don�t allow it to come from the lake. We close the lake up on top when we have a high water situation and Mark pumps it into the storm sewer.�

Hogen noted that the Vermillion area has received unusually heavy rains for in the past three or four years.

�Those are the only times that this situation becomes a problem � when we get those big rains,� he said. �Other than those situations, there is no problem out there. That system is working exactly as it was designed to work.�

Nelson said the lake at The Bluffs can hold the water of a 3.5 inch rain in a 24 hour period with no flooding problems.

Jerry Schmitz, Burbank, who rents land in the area, told commissioners that several years ago landowners had asked the designers of The Bluffs for an environmental impact statement which would show historical and predicted water flows.

�We requested it twice privately, and three times at commission meetings, and that information was never provided,� he said. �The landowners� concerns were that water that traditionally stayed above (the bluffs where the golf course/housing development is located) would flow below.�

Schmitz said early in the building of The Bluffs, landowners were considering filing an injunction stopping development until an environmental impact statement was produced. He said there was a gentlemen�s agreement with planners to produce a contingency plan.

He added that he had documentation, including aerial photos, that show that previous to the development of The Bluffs, 80 percent of the water that stood on the property was on the northern end of the golf course/housing development. Today, some of that water is being moved to the south, he said.

�By approving opening the ditch, you�re setting a precedent, I believe,� Schmitz told the commission, �in that other landowners will want to do the same thing.�

The commission agreed with a motion made by Commissioner Paul Hasse to approve the drainage permit providing that water does not flow into the south side of Burbank Road.

�I think the thing was poorly designed to begin with,� Hasse said. �We could talk about this for two more months, and it wouldn�t solve it.�

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