Starke County Commissioners Defer Drainage Decision

starke-county-courthouseThe Starke County Commissioners have agreed to wait until after next week’s park board meeting to make a decision about drainage issues in the Starke County Forest. Continued beaver dam activity along the Anderson Ditch is causing drainage problems for neighboring landowners. Several sent a petition to Starke County Surveyor Dennis Estok and to the DNR requesting a solution to the problem.

Forester Bruce Wakeland is worried about the affect any action will have on the marsh. The park board has oversight of the forest, but state law gives the surveyor control of the ditch. By law, whenever a drain is damaged or obstructed, the landowner must remove the obstruction at his cost. In this case the county owns the land and would be responsible for the bill.

Both sides agree a permanent solution is needed. They note the drain has not been maintained for several years, and the county does not collect a maintenance fee. One suggestion has been to dig a bypass ditch, but there are concerns beavers will still access it. Removing the beavers isn’t a viable option, either. They are considered a public nuisance on a ditch and must be trapped and relocated. However, the DNR will not take them. Furthermore, they have to be relocated in the county in which they are trapped with permission from the landowner. Right now the county doesn’t have enough information to know if they can coexist.

In-depth data collection will cost the county an estimated $5,600. The Starke County Park Board meets on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at the annex building. Their discussion will include how to pay for the study.