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Drainage ditch doldrums

Eagle Point homeowner accuses the city of falling down on ditch maintenance duties

EAGLE POINT ' In the nine years he's lived on Laurel Street, homeowner Barry Grigsby has diligently cleared the blackberries, trash and debris from the drainage ditch along the back of his property line.

While he was ordered to do so some eight years ago by the city, not all Grigsby's neighbors have done their part, resulting in a piecemeal effort and a clogged ditch that threatens to overflow during heavy rains like those that fell recently.

The second of two storms in December brought water up to neighbors' front doors and contributed to flooding near City Hall.

Buchanan (Avenue) was a raging river, Grigsby recalled.

Grigsby and some neighbors say the city hasn't lived up to promises they claim were made to keep the ditches clear using proceeds from a storm-drain fee. And recent council action has them further incensed.

— Tuesday, City Council members approved the first reading of an ordinance that would allow the city onto private property to clear dense vegetation from ditches. It also would allow the city to impose a lien against delinquent property owners' land to cover the cost.

Basically, in the event the property owner does not clean their ditch, the city can do so and charge them for it, said City Administrator David Hussell.

It is not by any means a fix to the problem of water, which has long been an issue for Eagle Point, but an effort to ensure the property owners who own those ditches have a responsibility to do something with those ditches because they create a part of the overall problem.

Not only are Grigsby and his neighbors frustrated by what he calls the city's sudden aggressive action, they allege they were told in 2000 that a then-implemented &

36;3 storm drain fee would ensure the city would begin dealing with ditch maintenance.

Hussell clarified that the fee was simply for maintenance of the storm drain system, but Grigsby and Laurel Street neighbor Barbara Buda claim letters distributed in 2000 ensured ditches were part of the deal.

When they passed that, the city said it was supposed to clean the ditch. They did it once and they did a terrible job. They tore up trees and didn't care about our properties, just getting the job done, Grigsby said.

They never came out again. My question is, that &

36;3 we've been paying every month since then, what did they do with the money?

Buda claims that she, too, was told the fee would cover ditch maintenance. However, both neighbors continued to heed warnings from the city and kept their portion of the ditch clean.

However, Buda argues of completely pointlessness for some neighbors to clean their portion of the ditch when not all comply.

They give us these warning letters but they don't back it up, and they haven't since 1998, Buda said. If you look at two places near my property, they've never been touched in the 26 years I've been here, so it doesn't do much good if I clean my part but I have neighbors who don't bother.

Another issue for neighbors is whether Little Butte Irrigation Co. has an easement for the irrigation ditch. Some deeds reflect an easement while others do not. Grigsby said he felt the city had caused the increased flooding issue by allowing development to proceed at such a fast pace.

The city has sidestepped its responsibilities, he said. It's called passing the buck. They let all these new houses go in, but I'm not sure they considered the impact they would have.

The bottom line is we haven't had this much water until this recent development. The second storm in December ' it flooded City Hall! The city is to blame for the flooding problem and now they want to say if we don't clean the weeds, they're going to put a lien?

Hussell countered claims that new development had caused the problem.

All the new subdivisions in Eagle Point detain their water; they collect all the drainage off their streets and roofs off that impervious surface and run it into a detention pond. The issues we have are not the growth areas of the community, he said.

The bottom line is that, when there is a heavy storm event, there is flooding. We have had some problems where water in drainage systems that came into the city were greater than the drainage system could handle. Some of these drainage systems are on private property and are not controlled or maintained by the city of Eagle Point. They are the responsibility of the property owner.

A second reading of the ordinance will take place 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24, in the Council chambers of City Hall, 17 Buchanan Ave. South.

Barry Grigsby and others who live along an irrigation ditch in Eagle Point say the city hasn?t lived up to promises to take over maintenance of this drainage channel.