State Sen. Jeff Raatz and State Rep. Brad Barrett will consider drainage regulation prior to the 2024 legislative session as members of the state’s Drainage Task Force.
Steve Slonaker of Centerville, an appraiser and farm manager, is among seven governor-appointed task force members who join six Senators and six Representatives. A 2022 legislative act created the task force.
According to a news release, the task force this year will:
- Review the responsibilities of landowners and state and local authorities under current laws relating to the drainage of land;
- Make determinations and recommendations concerning drainage and regulatory matters; and
- Determine whether the balance between state and local authority over agricultural land drainage favors state authority more in Indiana than in neighboring states.
State law required local flood plain administrators to use state flood plain mapping to determine whether property was in a flood plain, even if the property was not identified as a federal flood plain.
Senate Enrolled Act 242 during the 2023 legislative session repealed that requirement and allows landowners to choose whether they want a flood plain administrator to use flood plain mapping data or an engineering study for permitting decisions.
“The state is responsible for providing effective, respectful, and transparent services to all Hoosiers,” Raatz, a Republican who represents District 27, said in the release. “Last session, we worked to protect property owners’ rights to build and develop on their own land while protecting the environment. However, we need to study how our state can better accommodate property owners’ needs and rights by comprehensively reviewing drainage regulations and the responsibilities of state and local authorities under current drainage laws in this year’s Drainage Task Force meetings.”
During the 2022 legislative session, Raatz and Barrett, a Republican who represents District 56, sponsored legislation that resolved a Wayne County permitting issue. Wayne County issued two families construction permits without knowledge of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ new flood plain maps. The DNR then halted construction on the two homes in January 2019.
Wayne County eventually allowed completion of the homes despite the state map. The 2022 legislation officially enabled the county to issue the homes waivers that made them legal.
When, in January 2019, the county learned of the new maps, officials also discovered the majority of the town of Jacksonburg was classified as a flood plain. That hampered residents’ ability to build outbuildings and sell property. The county, with Raatz’s and Barrett’s help, fought to help Jacksonburg residents, and early this year, DNR amended its map, removing most of the town from the flood plain.
Raatz and Barrett also have other study committee assignments as legislators prepare for the 2024 session.
Raatz’s assignments include Education Commission of the States, Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, Indiana Civic Education Commission, Indiana Semiquincentennial Commission; and Technology Oversight Subcommittee, Legislative Council, for which he’s the chair.
Barrett was appointed the vice chair of the Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services and will also serve on the Medicaid Advisory Committee, the Medicaid Oversight Committee and the Health Care Cost Oversight Task Force.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.