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Don’t Get Soaked by Drain Projects

February 2018

“The Drain Code of 1956 is an exceedingly complex statute, the provisions of which apparently are known by few in the profession and understood by far fewer.” 

– Justice Stephen Markman

The processes for addressing drains are mysterious to many township officials, but they are exceedingly important as townships are often called upon to solve drainage problems. Early approaches in addressing drainage issues included constructing drains as part of larger road projects, encouraging the transformation of swampland into much-needed farmland through a federal program, and justifying drain-specific statutes for the purpose of preserving the public health and welfare. This presentation will highlight the progression of these efforts and how they led to the creation of authorities and institutions that serve as the foundation of the drainage authorities that exist to this day. 

Once the players in the game and basic background have been established, we will take a deeper look into how the drainage laws of this state are administered. Who makes the determinations regarding what work should be done on drains? Can anybody petition a drain commissioner to perform work on a drain? How are maintenance and repair projects funded? Is any part of the process conducted in an open meeting? Is there an opportunity to appeal a determination or decision made by a drain commissioner? How are the rights of property owners affected? How is the Drain Code affected by state and federal environmental statutes? 

All of these questions, and more, will be answered as we examine the key role townships play with county drain commissioners in building, cleaning, and maintaining drains.

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