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Dunn County farmers say they will try not to water the roads

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — Barry Andre of Rock Falls has appeared before the Dunn County Board several times over the past year to talk about the hazards of irrigators spraying water over the roads.

Dunn County Board supervisor Jerome (Pete) Prochnow reported at the January 15 meeting that the sheriff’s department and the highway committee had met with 35 irrigator owners and two company representatives on January 6 to discuss the problem.

Andre also spoke during the public comments portion of the January 15 meeting to ask again that the statutes already in place about irrigators spraying the roads be enforced.

At the January 6 meeting, Prochnow said, the sheriff’s department and the district attorney reported that the state statute pertaining to irrigators is vague and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to charge someone with a violation.

Be that as it may, those who attended the January 6 meeting said they would try to keep the water off the roads, said Prochnow, who is chair of the highway committee.

The new irrigator systems, he said, have shut-offs on the last irrigator tower so that the irrigator can be shut off when it reaches the edge of the field instead of spraying over the road.

“They are going to try this year to see if they can do a better job,” Prochnow said.

Andre also has complained to the county board about crops, particularly corn, being planted in the road right-of-way.

The farmers who attended the January 6 meeting agreed to back off pushing the crops right up to the edge of the road, Prochnow said.

If the crops are planted right to the edge of the road, highway crews will cut them down, he said.

On the other hand, if crops are planted to the edge of the road, that cuts down on brush and noxious weeds, Prochnow noted.

Andre also spoke to the Dunn County Board in June last year to ask that county officials review the ordinances and enforce existing laws about irrigators spraying over the roads.

Andre said he is a farmer but that he does not use irrigation. Within a five-mile radius of where he lives, there are 29 high-capacity wells, and 90 percent of the irrigators spray over the road, he said.

In one instance of an irrigator spraying over the road, Andre said he very nearly collided with a man and woman on a motorcycle who were turning around on the other side of “the wall of water.”

In another instance, a woman pulled over on the opposite side of the road to try to avoid the water, and when Andre emerged from the irrigator spray, he said he had to “take the ditch” to avoid hitting the woman.

Andre noted that he has reported the problem many times to the sheriff’s department, but that when deputies contact the farmers, the farmers always say they are “not aware” that their irrigators are spraying over the road.

Another problem, Andre said, is that in some places, the fields are plowed up nearly to the edge of the road and the ditches have been destroyed.

The lack of a ditch to channel rainwater — along with thousands of gallons of irrigator water spraying over the road — softens the edge of the blacktop so that road begins to crumble, he said.

Taxpayers paid to have the ditches put in and the roads paved, Andre said.

At the June meeting last year, Steve Rasmussen, county board supervisor from Boyceville and chair of the Dunn County Board, referred the matter to the highway committee and to the judiciary and law committee and asked both committees to report back to the county board.