County commission denies drainage request

HURON – An application for permits to allow a landowner south of Huron to pump and install permanent drain tile to direct storm water from his back yard to the ditch were denied after a nearly 90-minute public hearing Tuesday.
Travis Head’s requests were turned down by Beadle County commissioners, sitting as the county drainage board.
His seven-acre property is located at 4643 Illinois Ave. S.W. He said the diverted water would run to and along the ditch on Illinois Avenue and make its way across Highway 37 to Stony Run.
Four of the adjacent landowners concurred with his requests, but there was opposition by two others, Kent and Rita Thomsen, 4612 Illinois Ave. S.W., and the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall, 4603 Dakota Ave. S.
While commissioners denied the permits, Head is allowed to continue using his three sump pumps.
Head said runoff from neighboring properties have contributed to a large amount of water in his back yard.
He has been pumping water that has built up around a pond, but it has been going into the Thomsen’s yard for weeks. Water can’t get to the ditch without getting up over a rise near the pond.
“I would like to install drain tile from the top of my pond into the top of the ditch to allow any excess water once at a certain level to run so it doesn’t continue to flood my back yard,” Head said.
“I just want to be able to push the water along to another natural water way, which is what the ditch is,” he said.
Head moved into the house after purchasing it in December.
“I spent a lot of money on this place and have waited a long time to be able to have a place like this and I don’t want to go backwards,” he said.
But pumping the water, first with one generator and later with two, has caused major problems at the Thomsen property, they said.
Rita Thomsen said they have lived in their house for 33 years and have never experienced the situation they are now.
Pumping has been going on for much of the summer, despite their requests that he stop. “Our efforts to work together have been unsuccessful to say the least,” she said.
The Thomsens are dealing with major sewer problems and have seen their yard ruined and their trees dying. They must also limit their water use.
“We can’t take everyone’s back yard water,” she said. “We can’t do it.”
Kent Thomsen said 1997 was another wet year when there was even more water in their yard than this year. But no one in the neighborhood pumped then, he said. “Somehow they got by,” he said.
He said Head knew he had a wetland on his property when he bought the place.
“I think it’s his responsibility to take care of it without dumping it on us,” he said.
“After pumping for months now our drain field is full, our yard smells horrible; also, it’s an attraction for ticks and mosquitoes,” he said.
“If he receives a permit for this we will never be able to sell our house because nobody’s going to want to live next to him and be at his mercy when he pumps and pumps,” Kent Thomsen said.
Commissioners adopted an ordinance about five years ago that makes it illegal to pump water that flows onto an adjoining landowner’s property without concurrence.
Producing a U.S. Geological Survey map that shows a large wetland in Head’s back yard was Commissioner Rick Benson.
Record rainfall has caused problems throughout the county, he said.
“There’s a lot of people living with a lot of problems because of this weather and I’m one of them,” Benson said.
Recent rains of more than three inches followed by another inch have impacted his entire neighborhood, Head said.
“The water was large everywhere and that was before I was pumping,” he said. “It was backed up all over the place.”
Benson said he would look at the application differently if Head is willing to cover the cost of drain tile across the Thomsen and Kingdom Hall properties, but he is not. Head said he wants to maintain his property to the best of his ability, but doesn’t feel he should have to pay for others.
Installing drain tile on his property to the ditch would still mean water would flow onto the Thomsen yard although it would not come as fast, Benson said.
Carl Haberstick, an attorney representing the Thomsens, suggested asking for an engineer’s recommendation as to how pumping would not adversely impact neighboring properties by restricting the hours and determining what the ditch could handle naturally.
“I don’t think they have a problem with him pumping, it’s just how much,” he said.
As it stands now, even though Head has pumped onto his own property, it winds up at the Thomsens, Haberstick said.
Head said others have pumped water this year, too. “I’m not the only one doing what I’m doing,” he said.
“You have problems, but what you’re doing is causing other problems,” said Commissioner Doug Ramsell.
Beadle County State’s Attorney Mike Moore said he will prosecute others if they’re pumping illegally and he receives a complaint.
The only way such situations can be resolved is if the neighbors cooperate with each other, Benson said.
“We’ve got to work together on these things,” he said.
With the commissions denial of the permits, Head can file an appeal to the circuit court within 30 days.