By custom and
practice--and by virtue of holding the easements on all county-regulated
drains--the Porter County Drainage Board has historically assumed
responsibility for the cleaning and maintenance of regulated drains both in
the unincorporated areas of the county and in incorporated municipalities,
like the Town of Chesterton.
county-regulated drains run through portions of incorporated Chesterton--the
Pope O’Connor Ditch, Swanson Ditch, Gustafson Ditch, and Shooter Ditch--and
in the past the county, or its contractors, have come into town to clear
those ditches of debris and keep them flowing freely.
10 years ago, to the best of Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg’s
recollection--the county tended to the Pope O’Connor Ditch, where it runs
through the Tanglewood and Westchester South subdivisions, in the months
after the floods of September 2008.
Now, however, after
receiving phone calls from folks concerned about the condition of the
regulated ditches in their backyards, Schnadenberg is wondering whether the
county has in fact punted. Whether, that is, the county has decided to let
municipalities fend for themselves when it comes to cleaning and maintaining
And if so, when was
that decision made and why were affected municipalities not notified?
told the Stormwater Management Board at its meeting Monday night, “I keep
getting phone calls from angry residents. This has been going on for months
and other communities have the same issue.”
further noted that he’s heard anecdotal reports that County Commissioners
have been “telling people that the county has no responsibility for
maintaining” regulated drains in incorporated municipalities. And when
sometime ago John Nekus appeared before the County Stormwater Management
Board to ask permission to build a road in the Pope O’Connor Ditch
easement--as part of his Duneland Prairie planned unit development, recently
rejected by the Town Council--members of that board expressed surprise that
he was there at all.
The reason he was
there: because the county holds the easements to all regulated
drains, wherever they may be located.
Town Engineer Mark
O’Dell put the matter baldly: the town simply doesn’t have the authority to
go into the ditches, because the easements are the county’s. “They’re the
holder of the easements,” he said. “We don’t have any jurisdiction over
O’Dell added, the town doesn’t have the resources either, since the current
stormwater fees assessed to property owners wouldn’t defray the cost of
cleaning and maintenance.
“I mean, why would
we even want those drains?” Schnadenberg said. “We don’t have the funding or
the equipment to maintain them. The county does. We’d have to increase
voted 3-0 to instruct Associate Town Attorney Connor Nolan to make inquiries
at the county level and report back at their next meeting, Monday, May 20.
In other business,
MS4 Operator Jennifer Gadzala reported that H.B. 1266 has been enacted into
law, after the State Senate voted 62-27 on April 11 to approve an amended
version the original House bill.
The new law--which
will take effect on July 1--significantly reduces the authority which local
MS4 departments have to regulate and enforce pollution control measures at
Among other things,
the law cuts by at least half--from 28 to 14 days, in the case of larger
projects; and to 10 days, in the case of smaller ones--the time an MS4
department has to review a builder’s Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP).
The law also
attaches stipulations to the issuance of stop-work orders. An MS4 department
may stop work after approving a builder’s SWPPP, but only after
notifying the builder in writing of inadequacies in the erosion and sediment
control measures, and only after the builder fails to resolve those
inadequacies within 72 hours of receiving notification.
One ambiguity which
the language of the law introduces, Gadzala added, is this one: it
apparently allows a builder to submit a SWPPP before a construction
plan, which makes no sense, she said, because the efficacy and efficiency of
the former typically depends a great deal on specifics of the latter.
Brass tacks: the
town’s SWPPP ordinance must be amended to reflect the new law. “We’ll have
to look at what the language says and modify our ordinance accordingly,”
For the record, the
bill was originally introduced by State Rep. Doug Miller, R-Elkhart, who
according to his official website is managing partner of Tailor Made Homes
LLC and owner of Creekside Realty LLC and White Pines Properties LLC, is
seated on the Board of Directors of the Builders Association of Elkhart
County, and holds a life membership in the Indiana Builders Association.
voted unanimously to approve an interlocal agreement--pending legal
review--between the Stormwater Utility and the Coffee Creek Watershed
agreement, the Watershed Preserve will offer certain educational and public
information outreach programs--mandated under the MS4 program--in return for
which the Stormwater Utility will provide materials like water-testing kits.
Gadzala told the
board that the Watershed Preserve does “great outreach.”
March in Review
In March the
Stormwater Utility ran a surplus of $3,042 and in the year-to-date is
running a surplus of $30,307.