"I just want to do what's right, but there is so much bureaucracy in the way," Clay County Commissioner Charlie Brown said.
On Thursday, Brown spoke to The Brazil Times about an erosion issue along the Eel River, near County Road 300 East, approximately one-half mile north of CR 300 S.
"We've been trying to work on this a long time," he said. "But for the most part, we're getting all sorts of runaround."
Issues with the river date back at least a few years, including the closure of roads in the area following a major storm in February 2008, major flooding in June 2008 and the most recent ice storm and rainfall has only enhanced the severity of the situation.
The earlier floods and rain caused land near the river to erode, and the most recent rainfall, along with the natural river flow, created further erosion leading to a portion of one cabin to fall into the river. The erosion is also eating into the county's right-of way in the area.
"It's a really sad and frustrating situation for everyone," Brown said. "Typically, the county's right-of-way is 16-and-a-half feet from the middle of the road, but with the erosion, it is down to about 13 feet on that one side."
Brown told The Brazil Times Clay County Emergency Management Director Bryan Husband secured a $35,000 grant a couple of years ago, which was used to purchase riprap, but regulations have kept him from utilizing it.
"We've had the United States Army Corps of Engineers down here twice, along with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources," Brown said. "The corps of engineers have offered us a $100,000 planning grant, but when we asked about assistance to do the actual work, they offered up a low-interest loan."
Brown added some of the issues holding up the progress is a recent request for a detailed drawing and description of the erosion, including depth and width, along with the size of the riprap available, plus a concern for the "impact it would have on the trout in Eel River."
Some of the cabins in the area threatened by the erosion are permanent residences, while others are basically weekend getaways.
"I feel sorry for the guy who lost part of his cabin, and I would help if I could, but I can't since it is private property," Brown said. "One thing I haven't found an answer to is what exactly is the county's responsibility on the rivers."
He said Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District Technician David Schroer is assisting in creating the drawing and description, while recent correspondence with Lester Washington of the Army Corps of Engineers has moved things forward, but not as quickly as Brown had hoped.
"We are basically trying to get permission to use what we have," Brown told The Brazil Times. "If we had been able to do so earlier, it may have prevented some of the erosion, and maybe part of a cabin would not have been lost. But now, the damage is so extensive, I think it will take more than just the riprap to get things fixed."
Brown said there is also the possibility the county may need to hire an engineer to sign off on the drawing, which may cost approximately $5,000-10,000.
"The corps of engineers are the deciding factor," he said. "All we can do at this point is get the drawing and description completed and hope for the best."