Ditch laws in the state of Ohio are complicated and often inadequate to address the needs of property owners in urban areas, especially in urban townships, where state law restricts what the township and county are able to do. Cities and villages, being incorporated municipalities, under "home rule" can do more when it comes to ditches and stormwater runoff. Here is some information regarding property owners's options when it comes to drainage issues.
Ditches and drainageways are causing flooding - whose responsibility is it?
Depends. State law usually determines that the individual property owner is responsible for any ditch or waterway that runs through their property.
On-roadway drainage can be addressed by county road and bridge funds. Roadway ditches are cleaned regularly by county workers, though it is the responsibility of the property owners to keep leaves and debris out of the roadway ditches so water can run unimpeded. If you see a problem with a ditch along a county road, please report it to 330-643-2860 or email us through our contact page.
Property owners living in assessed subdivisions in a township in Summit County are paying a maintenance fee for their subdivision stormwater facilities. If you see a problem within an assessed subdivision, please report it to the engineer in charge of assessed subdivisions at 330-643-8537 or email us through our contact page.
The County can also aid residents whose properties are located within a Surface Water Management District service area. If your community has joined the Summit County Surface Water Management District utility and have a drainage concern, please visit our Surface Water Management District page and fill out the online form.
State law clearly states that road and bridge money cannot be spent outside the road right-of-way, so any ditches located elsewhere cannot be maintained by the County Engineer's office Motor Vehicle and Gas Tax fund. These ditches were often constructed under the Public Works Administration of the 1930s. These ditches, once constructed, were handed over to the individual property owners for ongoing maintenance. Prior to August 23, 1957, after a ditch was constructed through the County Petition process, the completed project was turned over to the property owners for maintenance and upkeep. The County owns an easement for the County Ditch but otherwise the County’s role with regard to the ditch was complete. In 1957 the state legislature passed a law whereby all County Petitioned Ditches constructed after August 23, 1957 are put under permanent maintenance. As such, a special assessment is placed on the property tax bill of all benefited property owners and repairs and maintenance to that particular ditch are paid for out of that special fund.
So what can I do?
The Summit Soil and Water District has an excellent Q&A regarding property owners and drainage concerns.
One option is filing a Ditch Petition with the County requesting assistance for the drainage problem. Read more about the process here.
If the drainage problem is caused by another property owner, the only remedy state law currently allows is bringing a civil lawsuit against the entity causing damage to your property.
Can I enclose my roadside ditch?
Storm drainage facilities cannot be closed, obstructed or altered in any way which would reduce the capacity for conveying storm water across private property. Click here for more information.