Letter to the Editor

Devastating project

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

The Clay County Board of Supervisors has voted to devastate a local wildlife and outdoorsman’s haven. Flowing from Trumbull Lake in northeast Clay County to the Little Sioux River several miles south of Highway 18 is Pickerel Run. While a portion of this stream was dredged about 100 years ago, in the century since, nature has had its way, returning much of the stream to a lovely natural condition.

While this stream corridor is not only a great resource for Clay County fishermen, in the past century major tracts of timber have developed along the corridor providing great habitat for deer, turkey, ducks and pheasants for area hunters, not to mention a home for a great blue heron rookery and a multitude of lesser species. Our local bald eagles have nested on the trees of Pickerel Run’s banks and regularly capture fish from its waters.

In recent weeks the Board of Supervisors gave the go-ahead to remove all of the trees from the entire corridor and to widen the existing stream bed. Not only will this plan destroy all of the wildlife habitat, it will also effectively remove the majority of the fish structure that has built up over the past century. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of this project is that the vast majority of the affected land owners are opposed to the project.

The supervisors are barreling ahead with the project on the advice of attorney Jim Hudson, who has convinced them that this massive project is required as part of the county’s responsibility to maintain the drainage district (drainage district 37).

Part of the blame for this planned travesty to the quality of life in Clay County can also be attributed to the engineering firm, Bolton and Menk, and the project’s chief engineer, Johnathan Rosengren. In 2014 there was a petition by five landowners to investigate the functioning of the county main tiles. Unknown to the landowners, the county hired Bolton and Menk to “investigate,” and five years and $120,000 later they came up with two options. Option 1 is to cut all of the trees. Option 2 is to cut all the trees plus dredge the stream to a wider width. All five of the original petitioners are opposed to either of these “nuclear” options.

While the fish and wildlife consequences are obvious, another issue that has not been adequately addressed is whether the eight bridges that Pickerel Run crosses between Trumbull Lake and the Little Sioux River are properly sized to handle the increased flow if this project goes ahead. The citizens of Clay County could be strapped with millions of dollars in costs to upgrade these bridges.

Another consequence of increased flow would be that anyone below Dickens that has had flooding issues in the past will most likely experience more drastic flooding in the future. Even moving on down the Little Sioux River, this extra water could be the difference between someone’s house flooding or not in any one of the communities along the Little Sioux River from its confluence with Pickerel Run.

Perhaps if the supervisors hear from enough of their constituents they might change their minds. Contact information for the Clay County Supervisors (Barry Anderson, Art Hamrick, Burlin Matthews, Dan Skelton and Randy Swanson) is on the Clay County website (https://www.co.clay.ia.us).

Contact information for Bolton and Menk is (www.bolton-menk.com Ames location: 1519 Baltimore Drive, Ames, IA 50010, phone: 515-233-6100); perhaps the firm has a conscience that could be affected if they hear from enough people about the devastation they are proposing and might be convinced to withdraw their plan.

According to Bolton and Menk’s own report, Pickerel Run (drainage district 37) is basically functioning as it was designed to do 100 years ago; however the amount of water flowing into it has increased, partially due to field tile, both from land adjacent to it, but also coming through Trumbull Lake from tiling above the drainage district, and partially because annual rainfall has been more than ever.

The first step is to STOP this devastating project as soon as possible! More consideration needs to happen in order to make responsible decisions to protect one of our treasured resources before it is turned into an ugly gash slicing through Clay County.

Steve Swan, Dickens