An integral part of a stormwater management system is the design. The design controls the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of storm runoff. The storm drainage system is a network of access structures, ditches, channels and underground pipes that work together to direct and carry stormwater (rain and snow water) to ponds, lakes, streams and rivers and may consist of both public and private land and systems. In order to keep these stormwater systems working properly as designed, the systems must be maintained on a routine schedule and on a continual basis. The maintenance of these systems involves rigorous cleaning and removing of vegetation and debris. The systems include but are not limited to culverts and pipe outfalls, catch basin gratings and manholes, retention and detention water runoff control basins, channels and roadside ditches, and underground piping.
Who maintains the drainage system?
Typically, your local town or county maintains the “public” storm drainage systems contained within dedicated storm drainage easements through local building codes and ordinances. They also maintain the drainage system and structures within the easement to allow for proper function of the system. A State’s DOT usually maintains the storm drainage systems in public street rights-of-way. Storm systems on land owned by other public bodies such as county parks, public schools and federal government are maintained by those entities. There are also numerous “private” systems that are the responsibility of private property owners, including driveway culverts and bridges that cross public drainage systems.
What are storm drainage easements?
An easement is a right granted from a property owner to another for a specific use of a portion of the owner’s land. Utility operators (gas, electric, sewer, etc.) often have easements for the purpose of installing and maintaining their utility lines and structures. As with most utility easements, storm drainage easements are permanent and run with the land (i.e., survive any sale of the property). They generally require the property owner to give up certain rights, such as building permanent structures (additions, decks, certain types of fences, etc.) within the easement to allow for proper function of the system and unimpeded maintenance access.
Who maintains the storm drainage easement?
Property owners are typically responsible for routine grounds maintenance such as grass mowing and trash or debris removal, and should ensure that systems are kept free of yard waste such as grass clippings, tree trimmings and leaves that may block the flow of water. Trees, shrubs and other growth in easements belong to and are maintained by the property owner.
What are public street rights-of-way?
A public street right-of-way is publicly owned land that contains both the street and a strip of land on either side of the street that contains appurtenant facilities (sidewalks, sewers, storm drains, etc.).
What can I do to help?
- Keep storm drains free of litter and debris. Do not rake leaves or dump grass clippings into the storm drainage system.
- Keep the area easily accessible in case repairs or maintenance are necessary.
- Do not place sheds or other permanent structures in the easement or on top of drainage structures.
- Apply pesticides and fertilizers several days before rain is forecast; if applied right before a rain, most of it will just wash off and end up in a storm drain.
- Never deposit pet waste, used motor oil, paint, chemicals or other substances into a storm drainage system.
- Report dumping or spilling of hazardous materials into a drainage system to your local authorities.
- Swimming pools should never be drained into storm drains without properly treating and neutralizing the water first.
Allan Abbata is a senior consulting engineer at Warren and a licensed professional engineer in South Carolina, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, Alabama, Maryland, Minnesota and Virginia. Allan holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He has more than 40 years of applied engineering expertise to include in-depth knowledge of building codes, rules and regulations that guide design. Allan has also prepared construction drawings and specifications, provided on-site supervision and inspection of construction projects, and. has overseen project management and responsibility for overall performance of building contracts while also serving as the client’s liaison with local, state and federal agencies and municipalities.