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Winnebago County has filed a petition against a family that removed trees and installed tile intakes on land officials say belongs to the county and is enrolled in a wetland reserve program.

However, the family claims the piece of land belongs to them.

The county wants the court to order Norrine Heesch, of Seymour, and four family members in Seymour who own an undivided half interest in her Center Township property south of Buffalo Center to restore a ditch they excavated to its original condition and pay for the loss of the trees and vegetation. 

The county also is asking the court to determine that the boundary between its land and the Heesch farm is the one established by a December 2015 Natural Resources Conservation Service survey.

In November 2015 an open ditch about 1,100 feet long was excavated on county land, according to the petition filed by County Attorney Adam Sauer.

Numerous trees were removed and vegetation was disturbed during the excavation, the petition states. Three tile intakes also were installed.  

In February 2016, notice was given to the Heesch family to respect the boundary line established by the NRCS, refrain from further damage to the county's land and remove the tile intakes. 

In May 2016 the family, through attorney Mark Newman of Forest City, agreed to restore the ditch to its former status but requested the work wait until the fall harvest.

However, late that fall Newman claimed the open ditch was located on his clients' property.

Newman declined comment to the Summit on the county's petition because it is an ongoing case.

An e-mail Newman sent to Sauer on Nov. 2, 2016, which the Summit obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, states his clients' initial agreement to restore the ditch was based on inaccurate information from the county.

In the e-mail, Newman told Sauer that upon Heesch's later investigation, they realized the fenceline was north of the ditch, meaning the ditch was on her land. 

  

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