Drainage dispute persists in Humboldt Co.

DAKOTA CITY – Who should pay for a drainage repair southwest of Livermore is still up in the air, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors learned Monday.

In January, repairs were completed to a drainage tile which passed under railroad tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad. The repairs were designed to alleviate flooding in the area.

The supervisors and Drainage Engineer Rick Hopper felt the railroad was responsible to pay for the repairs under Iowa code.

In 2012, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on a similar case between Calhoun County and the Chicago and Central Pacific Railroad Co. Based on that ruling, the Humboldt supervisors planned to bill Union Pacific for its portion of the work, estimated to be $68,000 plus engineering costs.

However, John Torbert, executive director of the Iowa Drainage District Association, said the Supreme Court did not solve the issue.

The railroad lost the Calhoun County case because it did not follow the correct legal procedures.

In a more recent case involving Hardin County and another railroad the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the railroad, he said.

“What the statute says is the railroad has the responsibility to repair bridges and culverts,” Torbert said. “The Supreme Court has to determine what the Legislature put on paper and sometimes that is 80 to 90 years ago. The court did not believe the Legislatures intended drainage pipe to be included with culverts. They make educated guess on what what they think the Legislatures meant. There isn’t much basis for an appeal.”

Torbert said it is in a railroad’s best interest to have drainage tile under the tracks maintained.

“It’s my feeling we are going to have to go back to the Legislature and see if we can get the statute changed to make it more inclusive of drainage work,” Torbert said. “That is going to be difficult to do.”

Torbert said the IDDA and others have decided to wait until 2014 to bring the matter up in Des Moines.

Supervisor Jerry Haverly said it was a good idea to wait a year to be better organized because the railroad lobbyists will be well prepared.

In other business the board approved the fiscal year 2014 secondary road budget and the secondary road construction program to be submitted to the Iowa Department of Transportation.

Receipts for the next budget are expected to be $4.9 million, down from the current $6.1 million in the current budget. The ending fund balance on June 30 is projected to be $2.7 million, and $1.4 million June 30, 2014.

There are 12 road and bridge projects slated for 2014, at a total cost of approximately $3 million.