One of the jobs we are tasked with, in partnership with Delaware County commissioners and the Delaware County Engineer’s Office, is the county’s drainage maintenance program. Delaware County is blessed with productive soils; however, many of our soils have drainage issues.
This does not mean they cannot be utilized for agriculture or for development but rather that improvements will be needed to ensure satisfactory long-term use. According to the Soil Survey of Delaware County, nearly 60 percent of our soils are classified as very poorly drained or somewhat poorly drained.
Given the drainage class of most of our soils, it is not surprising that our county has a long history of rural drainage improvements. Many of these projects are even older than me (I refuse to incriminate myself by explaining the age of some of these projects but I do admit to having a Golden Buckeye Card.). Assisting agricultural producers increase their crop production through the installation of drainage improvements has been an important part of the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District workload since our inception. In some cases, a single tile line would be sufficient and in other cases, groups of farmers would work together to install a series of tile mains, ditches, surface drains and more.
The Ohio Revised Code, Section 6131, provides for groups of landowners to petition their county commissioners for such improvements and Section 6133 sets up the process for projects that cross county lines. The county engineer is responsible for overseeing these projects and, in Delaware County, Delaware SWCD provides support by surveying, designing and monitoring construction. A three-way agreement among the SWCD, Delaware County commissioners and the Delaware County Engineer’s Office creates an efficient, local system.
Aging and deteriorating drainage infrastructure, along with lack of comprehensive maintenance, can result in reduced farm profitability and land values, not only for agricultural lands but for the rural and suburban lands as well. The cost of rehabilitation or replacement of these watershed scale drainage improvements can cost tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the scope. Whether the project was mutually agreed upon or petitioned through ORC 6131, maintenance of these group projects is provided for under the Ohio Revised Code, Section 6137. Since 1957, the law requires that all new projects are automatically put under maintenance. Old projects that are rehabbed or replaced are now required to be maintained under the code as well.
Delaware County has been featured in the news lately for we will soon exceed 200,000 residents, many of whom live in or are moving to urban and suburban areas of our county. Drainage is just as important to our residential neighborhoods as it is in farm country. As of July 1, 1998, all newly constructed subdivision storm water systems must be included in the Delaware County Drainage Maintenance Program, protecting homes and streets from flooding, ensuring drainage ways are free from impediments such as swimming pools, buildings, fences, trees, decks and landscaping, and that funds are available in the future to make needed repairs. Landowners within a project area receive a special assessment and those dollars are earmarked for repairs for their specific project. There are nearly 500 projects across the county under the Delaware County Drainage Maintenance Program.
The Delaware County Auditor’s Office website features the drainage maintenance layer for rural projects. Go to www. delco-gis.org/auditor and click on “layers,” expand “utilities” and click on “county soil and water drainage easements.” Plans are underway to add subdivision maps but, in the meantime, you can call the Delaware SWCD at 740-368-1921 for details on subdivision drainage maintenance projects and the easements associated with them. If you are buying an existing property, building on a new site or making changes to your existing property, we encourage you to learn as much as you can about the drainage affecting the site. Being proactive in the short term can save you money and headaches in the long run.
A wealth of information on soils, upcoming programs, archived newsletters and more is available on our website at www.delawareswcd.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DelawareSWCD.
Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at email@example.com.