Porter County Administration Center

The Porter County Administration Center in downtown Valparaiso.

VALPARAISO — The Porter County Storm Water Advisory Board waded into troubled waters at its meeting Monday.

Jim Phares, of Chesterton, asked permission to build a new pond near his home on Burdick Road after an old water control structure in Bedenkoff Ditch failed.

Phares told the board he removed the failed structure.

"If I hadn't ripped it out, you would be dealing with water over the road," he said.

That prompted a lecture from County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, a member of the advisory board. 

Good told Phares that any drainage structure placed or removed requires permission from the county before acting.

"You're right. Ten, 20 years ago there were no agencies," he said, "but I've got a whole third floor of people in those agencies."

In the 1990s, the Department of Fish and Wildlife helped restore the property to a wetland. In 2011, the property was put into the wetland reserve program.

Derek Schmitt, district conservationist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, said his agency is working with Phares to restore the area. With more ponding, the quality of the habitat will improve, he said.

The Izaak Walton League's Porter County chapter issued a statement expressing concerns about changes to the wetland, saying they could affect its own properties, one just south of Phares' wetland and one to the north.

"Altering the footprint of the Phares wetland would cause loss of habitat to native and migrating wildlife ... as well as imbalance at both of these adjacent properties," said the statement by the Izaak Walton League chapter's executive director, Annette Hanson.

The league's Carol Cook Wetland Overlook to the north has a boardwalk and overlook platform for bird watchers as well as a recently bilt osprey tower.

The board instructed Phares and Schmitt to attempt to secure other necessary permits before returning to the board. The board didn't hear about the project until 10 days ago, Good said.


Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.