Kosciusko County looks to discourage irrigators spraying on roads

Kosciusko County Commissioners on Tuesday said they will look into how other counties use ordinances to discourage farmers from letting their irrigation machines spray blasts of water onto roadways.

Irrigation machines have become more popular as farmers try to ensure their crops get adequate water, but if not programmed correctly, they can shoot strong blasts of water that can be dangerous for motorists.

The heavy spray can momentarily blind motorists whose windshields are instantly covered in water. It also carries a danger for motorcyclists who can lose control in such conditions.

The problem also can be a big inconvenience for motorists driving convertibles who are prone to getting soaked.

Commissioner Ron Truex, whose company farms about 9,000 acres of crops, said the problem can be rectified by adjusting the machinery to automatically cut off the spray guns when they pass close to a road.

“If it’s not shutting off, it can be fixed,” Truex said.

He said he hears complaints about errant irrigation systems “all the time,” and said he doesn’t understand why other farming operations let it happen and take on a potentially large insurance risk.

“I don’t want to assume the liability of eight motorcycles sliding all over,” Truex said.

The commissioners asked county attorney Chad Miner to research options available that could help reduce the problem. He is expected to look at both counties and states that legislate against the practice.

Truex said he’s not a big fan of creating new ordinances, but on the other hand, he added, “It’s not that difficult to control the machines.”

The discussion and action was prompted by a complaint from a resident from rural Syracuse who said she nearly wrecked her car while passing through a heavy stream of water from an irrigation system.