Supervisors, Union Pacific make compromise

In Humboldt County, entities reach deal on future drainage assessments

DAKOTA CITY — The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors reached a compromise with the Union Pacific Railroad on future drainage assessments in Drainage District 114 southwest of Livermore and including the town of Livermore.

In December, the board received the reclassification report from the commissioners for the district.

The commissioners proposed the railroad pay about 13 percent of any future repairs, said drainage engineer Rick Hopper, of Jacobson-Westergard & Associates, of Estherville.

After final adjustments the railroad came out under the average benefit of the cooperative and the town, Hopper said previously. “We looked at these numbers. The commissioners and myself felt this was fair.”

However, Union Pacific objected to the amount. In a previous letter to the board, UP said felt it receives no benefit from the district, and suggested it be responsible for no more than 4 percent.

On Monday, Des Moines attorney Ryan Koopmans, representing Union Pacific, said the railroad tracks actually predate the formation of the drainage district and therefore receive no benefit from the district. However, Union Pacific is willing to compromise and pay 8.5 percent of future repairs, he said.

“Things have changed through the years. Farmland has become more valuable. Co-ops are big business in this state. Railroad is too,” Hopper said. “They need the drainage to help stabilize the tracks.”

He believes the drainage system in question is keeping the land dry in the vicinity of the railroad tracks.

Livermore City Treasurer Janet Berte suggested the railroad didn’t need the drainage district originally, but times change. The land is now agricultural, which benefits the railroad. Livermore’s assessment has gone from 10 percent to 17 percent and there has been no change in the town. She said she doesn’t think it was fair to give the railroad the break because it has the money. The railroad, she said, has the power and the money and Livermore doesn’t.

Board Chairman Rick Pedersen asked if the board was willing to stick with the 13 percent and possibly face a long, expensive drawn-out legal battle with the railroad.

“It is one of those things. Where do you spend your money, in court or do you try to work it out here?” Hopper asked.

Supervisor Bruce Reimers asked if a compromise could be reached, something between 8.5 percent and 13 percent.

After making a phone call, Koopmans said Union Pacific is willing to accept 10 percent.

Berte said the compromise would be acceptable.

“Let’s just get it done. Why keep dragging it on,” she said.

The board accepted the compromise.