Public Drainage Associations
Public drainage systems were created by Maryland law more than 150 years ago in recognition of their many public benefits. Research has shown that proper drainage of frequently saturated soils helps create more productive farmland, reduces flooding, protects public health, improves the transportation infrastructure and supports local economies. The upkeep and maintenance of public drainage ditches is critical. Studies have shown that poorly maintained systems can accelerate the delivery of nutrients to nearby waterways, disturb wildlife habitat and contribute to erosion and sediment losses.
The first known organized drainage project in Maryland was authorized by the state legislature in 1789 for draining the Long Marsh in Queen Anne's and Caroline Counties. Specific projects were authorized by acts of the legislature until 1844 when a general law was passed delegating jurisdiction to county commissioners.
The Maryland Drainage Law governs the organization and administration of a public drainage association for a specific drainage project. As an association member, each benefited landowner is required to pay his proportionate share of the initial construction expense and subsequent maintenance upkeep expenditures. In addition, state law requires all public drainage associations to have a current Operation and Maintenance Plan that has been approved by the Maryland Secretary of Agriculture. Developed with assistance from the local soil conservation district, these plans are designed to minimize the environmental impacts of agricultural drainage ditches while maintaining functioning drainage systems. Cost-share assistance for the installation of several eligible best management practices for drainage ditches may be available from the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Laws and regulations are found in the Annotated Code of Maryland.
For additional information
Maryland Dept of Agriculture, Office of Resource Conservation: (410) 677-0802
Worcester Soil Conservation District: (410) 632-5439