CHARLESTON -- Mississippi County commissioners will do what they can to improve drainage on Ditch 23 but it won't involve replacing culverts.
Over a dozen landowners met with commissioners during the regular County Commission meeting Thursday to discuss the drainage problem.
Commissioners and landowners agreed the primary problem with the drainage in that ditch is the culverts at County Road 320 are too high. There are two large elliptical culverts and a railroad tank car converted into a drainage pipe at that road crossing.
Commissioner Homer Oliver said the culverts provide adequate drainage during high water, "it's the low water drainage that's the problem."
Commissioner Martin Lucas recalled that Charlie Ice surveyed the ditch in 1998 and recommended a grade line for the ditch bottom. The culverts at County Road 320 sit about 2.6 feet higher than that recommended grade line.
He explained to place those culverts, the Missouri Department of Transportation just did a profile of the ditch 1,000 feet north of the location and 1,000 feet south. "They didn't take into consideration what the whole ditch does," Lucas said.
Oliver said there are other problems in the ditch which are affecting flow.
"The lily pads are really, really bad everywhere I've looked," he said. "My opinion is the lily pads are really slowing the water down. ... I really think it's the lily pads."
Oliver said he thinks there might also be some places where the channel was narrowed due to ditch banks sloughing off.
There is also a high spot in the ditch bottom north of the culverts where a cable is buried that workers were afraid to dig near that is also interfering with water flow, according to commissioners.
The landowners agreed the culverts are too high and that the extra water that stays in the ditch as a result promotes the growth of vegetation. "The pipes are causing the lily pads," one landowner said. Spraying the vegetation would then only be a temporary solution at best -- "just a band-aid," said another landowner.
Lowering the culverts is not possible as they have deteriorated to the point where they can't be moved having been there for around 30 years.
Commissioners advised the landowners that as Ditch 23 only receives $24,000 per year in revenue, $13,000 of which goes to a bond payment for work previously done, there isn't enough money to replace the culverts, either.
One landowner asked if closing the road is an option. "Too many people use the road," Oliver said.
Landowners also asked if a bridge could be put in nearby. Lucas advised the county road and bridge department doesn't have the money to put in a bridge and federal Off-Systems Bridge Replacement funding the county receives is already obligated for the next couple of years for other bridge replacements.
Oliver agreed "there's some merit" in the idea of relocating the crossing, however.
Landowners said in addition to the culverts at County Road 320, there are problems south of the culverts which are presently keeping a couple feet of standing water in the culverts.
Commissioners agreed to spend the $19,000 now in the Ditch 23 fund to address any drainage problems south of the culverts.
"We're on schedule to try to do that," Lucas said.
Lucas advised landowners that in the long run they would be better off forming a drainage district made up of all the various ditches on the west side of the setback levee that the county manages.
"You would be in control of it, you would have the money to do what you need to do," he said.
"Consolidation would be a good deal," Oliver agreed.
In other business Thursday, the county's Board of Equalization conducted hearings on disputed residential valuations.
Several involved the 7-percent increase in value due to the state-mandated index change which board members explained they can do nothing about.
There were a couple, however, which will be reviewed by the BOE where the values were raised in excess of that 7 percent without what appears to be good reason.