Brown County Browser: Brown County drainage

It is important to understand the situations in which commencing a redetermination of benefits is important to the management and repair of existing drainage systems and to the establishment and construction of other drainage projects.

First, the most frequently urged and most compelling reason for a redetermination of benefits is that there are lands draining into the system which are not assessed for benefits. Many of the state’s drainage systems were established in the early 1900’s when excavation was done with horse power and tile trenches were dug by hand. Viewers in those days presumably considered benefitted lands in that light. Now that technology has advanced to the use of “one pass” tiling machines, that lay plastic tile on grade with the use of laser devices, landowners have the ability to drain lands that were once thought to be out of reach of the system. Further, landowners frequently system-tile lands which were, at the time of the original establishment of the system, not considered in need of drainage. Indeed, the side-hills of agricultural properties often benefit from system tiling. For these reasons, it is exceedingly common to find unassessed lands draining into a public drainage system.

Unassessed lands can be brought into the system when an improvement or repair petition proceeding is commenced. Doing so, however, is a patch-work remedy as the engineer or viewers may not be specifically reviewing the entire drainage system. Where there are significant unassessed lands draining into a system, a far more equitable approach is to redetermine benefits for the whole system.

Second, benefits determined many years ago, when land was selling for a small fraction of what it is selling for today in terms of today’s dollar, are wholly unrealistic. That fact, in and of itself, may not be a problem unless and until there is a proposal for a major repair or a drainage project that requires a cost-benefit analysis in the assessment.

Third, when an existing system has undergone a regular improvement of less than all of the system, there is a layering of benefits. That is, those lands that are benefitted by the improvement have two sets of benefits, those of the original establishment and those of the improvement.

Fourth, in the case of a repair by petition, additional lands may be brought into the system that have not previously been assessed benefits. However, this too is a patch-work approach as the newly assessed lands are going to be assessed for benefits at current land values. Other lands in the system may have been assessed for benefits at land values determined many years ago. There is no equity in that.

Brown County has plans to complete the Redetermnation of Benefits on all county ditches in 2018. The Drainage Authority recognized the importance of this process and the need to have landowners compensated for the lands that are required to be buffered. If ever landowners have questions regarding the process of Redetermining benefits call Jean Prochniak at 507-233-6616.