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Ditch still an issue in Bronson

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Bronson officials might feel for the plight that Judy and Russ Hall have come to know in the recent weeks of rain, but town council members say there's little Bronson can do to help.

The Halls own about 27 acres just out of town limits in the Lake Johnson Estates area, and they say a collapsed culvert over a mosquito control ditch has resulted in a deluge of water covering a large swath of their pasture.

"As currents go through, off of Bronson, it's washing more away of the land there," Judy Hall told council members Tuesday, Jan. 21. It overflows into the pasture where the Hall's cows graze, she said.

"Basically, why I'm here is asking for help ...." Hall said.

But council members told Hall that other than provide data from the town's storm water master plan to county or state officials, there was nothing else they could do.

The mosquito control ditch Hall was referring to was built in the 1930s, and it has become an issue in recent years because it helps drain excess waters from the town, but nobody maintains it and nobody seems to know who is responsible for its upkeep.

The Halls had also petitioned the county during its meeting Tuesday morning, but commissioners said there wasn't enough information to go on.

"They just said we would look into it," County Coordinator Fred Moody said Thursday. "There's a question of ownership. There's a question of private property. This an old, old issue."

Moody said the issue died for a while because the area had, in the past few years, experienced so much drought, but now the water table is starting to come up and the effects of development and shaping the land in various ways are, once again, becoming apparent in where the water ends up.

County Attorney Anne Bast Brown agreed that it's not a county issue. "The county doesn't have an easement, and we don't have an interest there."

Commission Chair Ryan Bell of Chiefland (R-District 4) had expressed interest in doing a one-time fix of the culvert to help the Halls out, Brown said. "I pointed out there might not be such a thing as a one-time fix."

It might not be so simple, she said, because the ditch is part of a larger system and the "one-time fix" might contribute to problems elsewhere along the canal.

The commission's consensus was that more information was needed, Brown said.

"It would be a slam-dunk situation," if someone could show ownership of the ditch, Bronson Town Attorney Steven Warm said at the council meeting, adding that the information has to be on record somewhere.

Hall's husband, Russ, was also at the Bronson Council meeting, and said, "I could go in there and close it off." But he said he didn't want to do that, knowing that it could have adverse effects on the town. Still, he said, he wants to put his property back to the way it once was.

Council Member Aaron Edmondson said clearing the ditch might be fruitless, considering that it needs to be cleared all the way through, something not all property owners in the area are even willing to talk about.

One such property owner, according to Russ Hall, has been blocking the culvert with debris for years.

Council Member Berlon Weeks said the town would do its part to provide the county with data from the storm water master plan. If the ditch is opened up, he said, it could reduce stagnating waters around parts of Bronson by up to 60 percent.