Making Drainage Improvements
How do I as a landowner, begin the process to make drainage improvements on my land involving an open ditch or large tile outlet? We hear this question many times in our office. Allen Soil and Water Conservation District assists landowners with making improvements for group projects like open ditch reconstruction, installation of new outlet tile, reshaping or building of grass waterways and other drainage improvement practices.
Landowners often repair group tiles, waterways and open ditches on their own land until the repair work becomes too burdensome. Many times landowners find resistance from neighbors when it comes time to replace the aging drainage system.
Three methods to make improvements:
- Privately – Private projects are completed with no involvement by any outside agency. The neighbors get together and agree on what they want to do, they hire a contractor and pay the bill when the project is finished.
- Mutual Agreement – Mutual Agreement projects are done under the supervision of the local Soil and Water Conservation District. The SWCD provides survey and design and construction inspection at no charge. This method does take 100% agreement by all involved. Monies are collected prior to construction and placed in a local bank.
- Petition – Petition projects are done through the County Commissioners and all the survey and designs are completed by the County Engineer’s office. The group is responsible for all costs in plan preparation, survey and design, even if the project is dismissed.
The Commissioners then make the decision to either accept or reject the project. If accepted, all landowners are notified of the estimated assessment and given a chance to correspond with the Commissioners. After holding a hearing with those who object, if the Commissioners feel the assessment schedule is accurate, they vote to proceed.
Any owner who is still not satisfied can appeal the Commissioners decision to the Court of Common pleas. If no appeals are filed with the Court, the project is advertised for bids and construction can begin. The Soil and Water District staff will oversee the construction and layout of the project.
Once the project is completed to the specifications and requirements established in the contract, the final bills are calculated and assessment notices are mailed to all landowners. The notice gives each landowner a choice to pay the bill within 30 days or they can choose to let it be spread out over a period of years and paid with their semi-annual real estate taxes.
The Commissioners do charge the group a technical assistance fee ONLY if the project is approved. The current fee schedule is based on the final construction costs. The fee is 30% for underground tile systems and 40% for open drainage systems like grass waterways or open ditch reconstruction.
Procedure to begin an improvement project:
- Fill out a Request of Assistance form, stating the nature of what you are requesting along with the name you want on the project. A single landowner can file the request or there is room to have more signatures from neighbors who are in favor of making the improvement.
- To make the application valid, the Board of Supervisors does have a Deposit Agreement Form which needs to be signed. The amount of the deposit depends on the length of the project. The schedule is on the form.
- The signed application along with the deposit form and check are sent to the Soil and Water District for approval. The Board meets every month and will review any new applications.
For more information, feel free to contact the office staff. We look forward to assisting with any drainage improvements