The Washington Times-Herald

August 5, 2012

County forced to mop up levee problem


Washington Times-Herald

WASHINGTON — “It gets a major piece of this issue resolved.”

Those were the words of Daviess County Attorney Grant Swartzentruber after a joint meeting of the Daviess County Commissioners and the County Council on Tuesday. During that meeting, the two entities voted to accept a partial settlement of $445,000 to fix a part of the Bennington Levee.

The county, along with the Bennington Levee Authority, have sued three people and a construction company for digging a mile-long ditch next to the levee that may or may not have caused the levee to fail in 2011. We say “may” because fault has not been determined.

The money to fix the north section of the levee, which the settlement is for, is estimated to be $532,407. This will leave the county saddled with $87,000 or more for repairs, provided both boards vote for a joint resolution on Tuesday.

It is unfortunate that we all will probably share some of the burden due to the short-sidedness of entities on both sides of this legal battle.

We think the defendants, including Indiana Farm Bureau President Donald Villwock, should have at least consulted someone before they started digging ditches next to levees.

Anyone who has ever played in a sandbox can see when you start taking away sand at the bottom of the sand hill, the hill starts going away.

But fault alone should not fall only with the defendants, the Bennington Levee Committee should bear some of the blame in this debacle. This committee saw its levee decertified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2007, and although they were given funds in 2008 from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, they are left passing hats around today to fix the levee. Unfortunate.

And $87,000 is just the beginning. We have not seen a settlement or continued litigation of the south breach of the levee. Repair estimates for that side are more, up to $2 million.

The shortsightedness of few leaves the county mopping up the mess, literally and figuratively. In a time when we see less dollars going to local government due to property tax reform, less dollars can be used for county projects, or for its workers.

We are surprised that everyone involved in this case, who are supposed to be well-versed in land management practices, find themselves in the position they are in today.