HURON – Aging bridges and maintenance of rural roads, made even more difficult this spring due to major flooding, are frustrating township and county officials as they struggle to deal with problems residents are having in traveling.
Beadle County commissioners spent more than two hours of their Tuesday meeting hearing the concerns of residents from Nance, Whiteside, Carlyle and Pearl Creek townships.
Though there were heated exchanges a few times, the consensus seemed to be that all involved want to try to work together to find solutions.
“There’s no easy answer, I know,” Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, said in the meeting between commissioners and representatives of Nance and Whiteside townships in far northwestern Beadle County.
Townships and the county are eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency money as a result of damage caused by the harsh winter.
A week ago, county commissioners took the first step in seeking federal help by adopting a resolution declaring an emergency due to severe damage caused by flooding from melting snow and heavy rains, which have washed out gravel roads and culverts.
Gov. Kristi Noem declared South Dakota a disaster state as of March 13.
But infrastructure has also been deteriorating over time and not solely as a result of this year’s weather conditions.
Flooding, however, is creating even more problems.
Nance and Whiteside supervisors said their intention in meeting with commissioners was not to complain, but to get conversations going on what can be done.
They said they are trying to address problems with their own limited resources to make it work.
White encouraged them to prioritize their projects so the most common sense solutions can be pursued.
Commissioners next met with Carlyle Township officials, who are concerned about a county bridge located on a township road. The bridge has been condemned, but the township wants the road to remain open.
In order to move forward with the use of culverts, a hydrology study must be done, and township official Stuart Neuharth said the board would look into that.
Engineers will determine if the culverts constitute a structure. A structure can be culverts depending on how they are spaced. If they are deemed to be a structure, they will go on the county’s list of project priorities and it could be years before the work is done.
“If it doesn’t qualify as a structure, I’ll put them in probably some time this summer,” said Highway Superintendent Merl Hanson.
While the county would provide the labor, the township would have to pay for the culverts.
Commission Chairman Denny Drake said the county must maintain a list of priority projects because of so many urgent needs throughout the county.
“That’s why we have a list,” he said, “because we can’t take care of everybody.”
“The safest way is to put culverts in and keep the road open,” Neuharth said. “We have to come up with what’s right and proper for everybody.”
The third session was with Ken Dickson and Linn Dickson of Pearl Creek Township, who said they were there as individuals and not as representatives of the township.
They met with the commission a couple weeks ago about a bridge across Pearl Creek. Commissioners had adopted a resolution asking the state Department of Transportation to delete the century-old steel bridge from the list of bridges scheduled to be replaced with state and county funding.
But the Dicksons asked them to change their minds, arguing that it is not on a minimum maintenance road.
Two weeks ago, they said the bridge was to receive FEMA funding after 2011 flooding. They said the bridge wasn’t condemned, but was damaged by water and ice. Otherwise it would be open today, they said.
The township may lose another road due to problems with culverts and if the bridge is closed they said it’s a long way around for local residents.
Commissioners held off on a decision saying they want to hear the wishes of township supervisors and if they would be willing to maintain the road.