It's infrequent, but pivot system overspray on roads can be a concern
BEATRICE – With continued drought conditions in various stages across the region, law enforcement officials caution producers about the possible hazards from overspray of irrigation water onto roadways.
It’s mostly an infrequent occurrence but can present a hazard for traffic suddenly encountering wet pavement or a slick non-hard-surfaced road section.
Gage County Sheriff Millard Gustafson explains the policy the county uses, in dealing with such situations that can create a liability problem for a producer.
"If there's no mechanical malfunctions, its considered a class-four misdemeanor and no warnings are necessary from law enforcement...they can just do what they have to do. If there are mechanical malfunctions and there's no crime causing it to divert water onto the roadway, what they usually do is give you two warnings a year...that's what the county attorney has done in the past. We'll do two, depending on circumstances....when you get to your third one, its probably a citation for that."
This year, Gustafson said he’s heard a few complaints informally, but not many reported to law officers where they went out to check the situation.
"I always want to reiterate to people that they have to call communications so that they know that, so we can go out and do something with it. I'll go into some business and hear someone say, oh by the way I heard that water is on the roadway from that pivot. You have to tell us when you see it so we can document that. It gives us an idea of how many times we've been out there...and get on it right away. There have been some reports...we've been out on a few of them...but we just haven't had a lot of calls on them otherwise."
A few years ago, an accident occurred west of Beatrice along Nebraska Highway four, with a pivot irrigation system. "We found out about it and tried to get deputies on both sides of the pivot. We had one on the south end, and a deputy had not quite gotten to the north end when a car came through and hit one of the towers, right in front of the deputy who was recording it. We were very lucky that wasn't a serious accident or a fatality. In that situation, I've heard that people don't have stops, to kick the pivot back around. It's a cheap investment. I would certainly encourage farmers to have those, if they don't."
The rule against pivot overspray, Gustafson says, is applied regardless of whether it affects a hard-surfaced highway or a gravel road. "We enforce that with township, county roads, highways...whatever."
Gustafson says in very dry conditions, it doesn’t take a lot of off-target water to make a road slippery.
Gustafson says he understands that equipment malfunctions can happen, but he urges farmers to remain vigilant against problems with pivots. He also cautions farmers to be aware of the potential for vandalism or theft of copper or other metal, from systems.