Otsego residents battle waist-deep floodwaters

Island View Estates neighbors estimate they have pumped 4 million gallons of water from their yards since last summer due to a failing drainage system.

by Bob Grawey
Staff writer
Neighbors in one Otsego development say they have had enough.
Since 2010, several homeowners in the city’s Island View Estates neighborhood have had to deal with flooded yards that have claimed gardens, trees, and even caused erosion for at least one homeowner.
Residents spoke out at a public hearing concerning the issue during the city’s July 25 council meeting voicing concerns over the flooding, as well as concerns over the city’s solution to solve it.
Mark Peterson told Otsego City Council members and city staff he and other residents first noticed a problem with the neighborhood’s drainage system when a July storm last year dumped torrential rain on the area.
“At one point, the water in my yard was up to my waist,” Peterson said.
In a letter to the city dated May 10 of this year, Peterson said, “A few weeks after the (July) storm, standing water from our property and surrounding properties still remained pooled across our yard and three adjacent properties.”
Peterson and his neighbors began pumping the water out from their yards as it was threatening septic systems and causing flooding in some homeowner’s basements.
Several neighbors say they have lost their garden and/or trees from the excessive flooding.
Aside from losing trees, resident Dan Vetsch says in the three years he and his wife have lived in Island View Estates, the flooding has rendered part of their property as “useless.”
“I don’t really want part of my property to become a swamp,” Vetsch remarked to council members during the hearing.
Peterson estimates he and his neighbors pumped water over 130 hours and pumped out over a million gallons of water from heavy rains throughout the 2010 summer.
So far this year, Peterson figured he and his neighbors have pumped water for more than 350 hours, pumping close to 3 million gallons of water from their yards. Residents in the development have also spent hundreds of dollars in gas for the pump in their efforts to get rid of the water.
All this water has been routed across Scott and Jean Gustafson’s yard. Though the couple has been willing to allow the water access across their property, they claim it has caused erosion problems and sink holes to develop, even as close to their house as their garage.
The problem stems from a clay tile drainage system that is collapsing.
In a letter to Otsego, Brett and Keri Schoen say the system is the only way to drain water runoff from 11 properties in the development.
One resident told council members and city staff that this system keeps failing farther along the drainage line.
Residents asked the city to take on the problem, even though it is a private drainage system, since it affects so many property owners.
Otsego agreed to correct the problem, but that the cost to install a new drainage field would be assessed back to those affected land owners.
Otsego City Engineer Ron Wagner told everyone present at the hearing that four possible options were possible to correct the water drainage problem.
The option to run a new plastic drainage pipe through the Gustafsons’ property would be the most viable and cost efficient way to address the issue, Wagner claimed.
But running a drainage pipe through the Gustafsons’ yard means going through the middle of their property.
Scott Gustafson told the city that the $1,700 Otsego offered to pay for the needed easement was not enough to offset the devaluation his property would receive from the easement.
He added that a neighborhood drainage pipe running through the middle of his yard would make it difficult to sell his property in the future.
Gustafson objected to the city-acquired appraisal of his property and said if no reasonable compensation is paid in lieu of his lost land value, he would sue the city.
That, he stressed, would drive up the cost of the project considerably for all affected residents.
The disgruntled homeowner also threatened to stop allowing his neighbors access to his property as they try to get rid of ponding water.
One neighbor, Brett Schoen, asked city council members what the city plans to do if Gustafson follows through on his threat.
Neighbors did not seem at odds with Gustafson at the hearing, or he with them, but at least one resident wondered if nearby Vintage Golf Course had anything to do with the drainage problem.
Kathy Haugan asked the city if anyone knew whether drain tiles had been removed when Vintage was developed in the 1990s. She claims that after the golf course was completed, she and husband, David Haugan, had to have a new well drilled. Their original well, she said, was 100 feet deep, but their new well had to be drilled down to 285 feet.
David Haugan said pictures taken of the land before Vintage was developed show the land where the golf course sits was quite a bit different in its configuration and in its elevations.
Wagner said that would only change the speed at which water runoff would flow.
Acting Otsego Mayor Vern Heidner continued the hearing until the Aug. 22 city council meeting to give city staff time to work out a solution Gustafson and his neighbors would be agreeable to.

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