SIOUX CITY | Landowners in the Orton Slough Drainage District near the Port Neal Industrial Area want to spring for a better drainage system to rid their fields of rainwater faster. 

I&S Group, of Storm Lake, Iowa, a consultant hired by the Woodbury County Board, estimated the total cost for the 30 landowners at anywhere from $432,224 to $787,786.

Landowners can pay their assessments over several years.

Details of three possible solutions will be aired in a meeting for county residents Thursday in Salix. The County Board will hold a public hearing on the plans in February.

The board discussed the options Dec. 17 after Woodbury County Engineer Mark Nahra and I&S Group prepared plans in response to the landowners' requests for improvements. Field flooding from a wet 2011 spring delayed crop planting.

"The farmers are looking to reduce the amount of time that it takes to get rid of rainwater," Nahra told the board.

Possible solutions include placing more underground drainage piping in the area or excavating an open ditch to carry the water south to Brown's Lake, near Salix.

"Any one of these options would be an improvement," I&S Group Senior Civil Engineer Ivan Droessler said at the meeting.

The open ditch option is the least expensive, at an estimated $432,224. However, that option would remove 11 acres from agricultural use.

Mark Godfredson, of rural Sergeant Bluff, said he's glad improvements are on the way after years of rain-soaked fields. 

"The open ditch is the cheapest and best route to go," Godfredson said.

Supervisor George Boykin said inadequate drainage in the 2,394-acre Orton Slough district has been a problem for years. The last substantial repairs were made in 1984, when piping was extended and the ditch was cleared.

The area lacks a natural route for runoff due to the extremely flat topography.

The supervisors are considering adding about 367 acres to the north end of the drainage district and will inform an estimated eight landowners who would be included in the expansion. Those owners would help pay for the improvements.

If the final decision involves underground structures, the county and state would fund some of the work, since those pieces would go under various highways. The Iowa Department of Transportation would pay for a culvert under Interstate 29, and the county would foot the bill for a culvert under County Road D51.

Iowa has 3,000 drainage districts covering roughly one-fourth of the state. District trustees – typically, county boards of supervisors – form rural drainage districts at the request of landowners who want levees for flood protection and outlets to drain water. The trustees are charged with maintaining the districts and assessing property owners based on the percentage of benefit they receive.

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