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GARNER | The Hancock County Engineer's Office plans to step up enforcement of farming in the road right-of-way.

Hancock County Engineer Adam Clemons says his office will send letters to farmers who they have observed habitually planted crops too far into the road ditches.

He said the recipients will be informed they have been observed, in the past, in violation of Iowa Code 318, which prohibits farming in the right of way

The goal is to clear up any confusion about the right-of-way lines before crops are planted in the spring, Clemons said. 

"We'll go out, if they request, and put stakes out so they know where it's at before planting," he said. 

The length of the right-of-way varies by road and is typically measured from the center of the road out into the ditch.

The Hancock County Engineer's Office is increasing enforcement along rights-of-way due to damage on drainage structures and soil erosion. 

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There have been instances where farming equipment has ripped off the end of a culvert and buried tile intakes. Erosion caused by the practice has also filled up some culverts, impacting drainage, Clemons said. 

And, although it hasn't happened, he said there's also the potential for damage to utilities buried in the right of way.

"We tell them to be (installed) at a certain depth, but if there's a utility in there and you pull fiber (line), you're not going to want to pay for that," Clemons said. 

State law allows highway authorities to remove any obstruction, including crops, and bill the person responsible for the obstruction for the removal.

Obstructions deemed an immediate and dangerous hazard can be removed immediately and without notice to the property owner or the person who placed the item in the right of way. 

Highway authorities must provide at 48-hour notice to the owners or responsible parties in the case of obstructions that are not deemed immediate hazards.

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