The Washington Times-Herald

March 21, 2014

County considers one more paper barrier to protect levee

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — After two breaches in five years Daviess County officials are looking for all kinds of ways to shore up and protect the Bennington Levee.

Instead of dirt and concrete though the county is turning to paper and permits to provide some extra barriers to people who might wind up creating damage to the structure along the West Fork of the White River.

The latest move involves a zoning change called an overlay on the new Daviess County Zoning maps.

“At the request of the Bennington Levee Board we are working on an overlay district,” said President of the Daviess County Area Plan Commission Dennis Helms.

Currently the Levee Board only has a 15 foot easement from the toe of the levee. The overlay would extend 200 feet from the center of structure to both the land and river sides. “Fifteen feet is not sufficient to protect the levee,” said Helms. “Someone could put a well, or pipe or ditch that close and once again threaten it.”

Officials believe the 200 foot zone would be a better solution. “Based on the information we have gathered the consensus is that 200 feet should be sufficient,” said Helms.

The overlay would require anyone wanting to do any work inside the area to first get permission from the Bennington Levee Board. “It doesn’t necessarily stop someone from building in those areas, but it requires people to go through additional permitting.”

The proposed new layer is in addition to any other permits that are already required. “Any construction would have to go through any underlying zoning issues,” said Helms.

“Because it is in the flood plain any work would also have to go through the Army Corps of Engineers and the flood plain administrator,” said President of the Daviess County Commissioners Tony Wichman. “There are also state permits required through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. There are just several permitting things now for people who want to do work along the levee.”

The Bennington Levee runs from just south of Elnora to almost U.S. 50. Most of the land adjoining it is farm land. “The overlay will not interfere with any normal farming or tillage,” said Helms.

The overlay is still in the preliminary stage. “We are working on a draft that we will present to the levee board for their review and comment,” said Helms. “After that we will be required to have a public hearing. Then the plan commission will send it over to the commissioners with a recommendation to either approve or deny it.”

The additional paperwork protection for the levee appears to be at least two months away from going into place.