Legislators to consider drainage laws
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
As drainage activity continues to hit record heights in Lake County, South Dakota legislators will be considering a law that outlines a specific list of requirements for future drainage requests.|
Lake County approved 128 drainage permits in 2012, which cleared the way for more than 1.73 million feet of tile or 327 miles. Of those permits issued, six provided maps of the proposed tile, but the maps did not list the specific diameter and length of tile proposed.
In comparison to 2011, 128 applications were processed asking for the installation of 1.4 million feet of tile. Maps provided with two permits did not specify the amount of tile to be installed.
Drainage permits for the past two years have far exceeded any single year. Previously, the most was in 2010 when 62 permits were issued.
Lake County residents seeking a drainage permit are required to go through the Natural Resources Conservation Office for a wetlands determination on the property where drainage is proposed. From there, landowners turn in the NRCS wetlands determination and a map illustrating the tile that will be installed. The county's Zoning and Drainage Office determines the landowners who are within a mile downstream from the proposed project and the applicant is asked to obtain a waiver from each one. If all the waivers are received, the permit application is reviewed and taken under consideration. If waivers are missing, a public hearing is set before the County Commission, which evaluates the request and any concerns and considers the permit.
SB179 lists 14 items that are required for a drainage permit: wetlands determination, legal description of land to be drained, map showing the site plan and location of facilities, general description of the project, owner of the property, and name and address of the drainage contractor in charge of the project.
Additional items listed include the capacity of the tile system and outlet flow capacity; acres of land to be drained; where the water will be discharged and public property that could be affected; and notification or approval by state, federal or local government agencies that own the property.
While much of the information is being requested by Lake County, Jay Gilbertson, manager of the East Dakota Water Development District, said there's key language in the proposed law that requires the permit information to be determined by a professional engineer registered in South Dakota.
"SB179 is a start. These are baby steps taken in the direction of improving how drainage is managed," Gilbertson said. "In South Dakota, bigger steps are coming and necessary. This addresses some of the shortcomings in state law. They can be addressed today without hampering future efforts."
SB179 is one of two water-related bills before the state Legislature. Another is SB153, which amends existing state law related to the formation and operation of watershed districts. Gilbertson said this proposed law aims at clarifying existing state law.
"A recent group that got one started had a difficult time going through the process," he said.
Watershed districts are set to establish a government entity that has taxing authority. The taxes collected can then be used to address water quality concerns.
Both laws were drafted by members of the legislative task force that met last summer to discuss drainage laws in South Dakota.
Gilbertson said that board met twice and intended to meet a third and final time in Aberdeen, but that meeting was canceled due to a snowstorm. After the second meeting, however, several committee members were exploring ideas for possible legislation.
"From there, a number of draft legislations were created with the intent of having that available for discussion," Gilbertson said.
Five bills were drafted, but only two have been submitted.
SB179 also eliminates a cap on the permit fee. The state currently limits the county to charging $100 for any permit. Lake County charges $50, or $100 if a hearing is necessary.
Gilbertson said that by striking this fee amount, counties will be able to charge permit fees based on the administrative costs of regulating requests.
The proposed law would only affect counties like Lake County that presently require drainage permits.
"But it establishes a minimum list of things the permit application should contain," he said, adding that the required information is needed to evaluate the permit request and provide a level of professional objectivity to evaluate the proposal.
"This will provide the county with a degree of assurance about the impact of the project," he said.
Gilbertson said this law will allow for the establishment of a uniform data set when it comes to drainage permit requests across the state.
"I'm looking forward to a vigorous debate and supporting it wholeheartedly," he said. "I'm very happy to see it come forward."
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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