The county regulates drains, which includes most creeks and ditches, but not all of them. If all the landowners along a creek got together and agreed, they could get a maintenance assessment set. Turkey Creek, for instance, has had its share of problems.
“Turkey Creek is unique. It’s a county-regulated drain, but was never set up for a maintenance assessment,” said Mark Montel, the county’s drainage supervisor.
Property owners can set up an assessment. People may ask the county to set one up one with the consent of a majority of the property owners. Each ditch has to have its own maintenance fund. For instance, Walnut Creek residents can set one up for Walnut Creek only. There would need to be a request for a hearing from the drainage board and after inviting everyone involved who owns property along the creek, Turkey Creek can set up its own, said Montel.
Gary Miller lives along Turkey Creek in Milford. He said Turkey Creek is nice but it needs to be cleaned. Turkey Creek is bad all the way down from the dam, according to him.
Miller said the Army Corps of Engineers has not done anything with Turkey Creek as far as digging or moving trees for probably 100 years. He is concerned with flooding and would like to see the creek cleared of debris.
“We need to get this creek to work like a creek should,” said Miller.
Steve Haab of Syracuse feels the same way. The creek flows through his property, located on CR 250E, in Van Buren Township. “The trees slow the water and when there’s high water, we can have a flood situation, especially when the gates open at the dam,” said Haab.
According to Kosciusko County Surveyor Richard Kemper, the county drainage board is responsible for the removal of debris, such as trees, deadfalls, logjams or other obstructions, from “county-regulated drains” that have yearly maintenance funds established for them. Kemper said landowners are not prohibited from doing this activity on their own property and, in fact, are encouraged to do so, but would be subject to the same permitting requirements as the county. He added some creeks and natural streams are also county-regulated drains, but the majority of regulated drains in this county were man-made.
“I have classified Turkey Creek as a drain in need of maintenance and forwarded that classification on to the county drainage board,” said Kemper. “This begins a process of preparation for a public hearing within the next few months. The hearing will propose to establish an annual assessment (proposed rate to be determined). When a hearing date is finalized, a letter of notification with the proposal will be mailed to each landowner within the Turkey Creek watershed.”
If an annual maintenance fund is adopted and approved, those funds can be used to remove obstructions as needed, subject to permitting requirements of Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Generally speaking, Kemper said log jam removal done with hand tools does not require a permit. The use of mechanical equipment, such as a hydraulic excavator, under some circumstances, requires a log jam removal permit.
According to a DNR handbook, “These obstructions do not pose a significant flood damage risk, and the overall conveyance is acceptable and expected to stay that way. It is recommended that obstructions in this class be left alone unless they are associated with or are within eye-sight of larger obstructions, in which case they may be removed using hand-held tools.”
The DNR adds, “Heavy machinery, such as small tractors, bulldozers, log skidders, or other low-ground pressure equipment, may be used so long as they are not equipped for excavation.”
For more specific information on the permit requirements, landowners can visit www.IN.gov and select “DNR Division of Water Indiana Drainage Handbook.”