Orton Slough

Woodbury County Engineer Mark Nahra is shown Jan. 3 at County Road K45 and 250th Street north of Salix, Iowa. The flat land behind him is part of the Orton Slough, where the county may halt planning to provide better drainage.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal file

SIOUX CITY | Some residents are raising concerns about options being considered to stem flooding in their area of unincorporated Woodbury County.

The area is in the Orton Slough Drainage District near Port Neal Industrial Park and Brown's Lake near Salix.

County officials for about a year have been exploring ways to rid farm fields of excess water after rains.

A consultant the county hired, Storm Lake-based I&S Group, has indicated placing drainage piping in the area or excavating an open ditch to carry water south to Brown's Lake, near Salix, would stem flooding.

It would cost between $432,224 and $787,786. The cost would be split among 30 property owners in the district.

A public hearing was scheduled on Wednesday. But County Board member Mark Monson, of Sergeant Bluff, said officials decided to delay the meeting and evaluate options before moving forward.

"There is confusion over what might be done, (so) people are concerned," he said.

Officials have decided to mail property owners a survey asking for their opinion of options.

"I want to know who is on board with this and who isn't," said County Board member David Tripp, of Sioux City. "If they don't sign for it, there is no point in going with it."

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. Field flooding from a wet 2011 spring delayed crop planting.

Mary Ellen Habben, of rural Salix, told the Journal that more residents need to be heard in the debate. She fears water draining into Brown’s Lake will hurt fish and animals.

"We will have a dead lake. You get silt into a fish's gills, they will die," Habben said. "This is more than just a farm issue. It is an issue with keeping the lake as healthy as possible."

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County and education reporter

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