Farmers now have a simplified route to apply for minor improvements to municipal drains on their property
By Jackie Clark
The government of Ontario is working to modernize the Drainage Act “to reduce regulatory burden and streamline approvals for farmers, rural landowners and municipalities undertaking drainage projects,” according to a July 8 release.
“I’m engaged continuously with a number of our drainage stakeholders across the province,” Tim Brook told Farms.com. He’s a drainage specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Drainage is fundamental to support the ag sector and the economy of rural Ontario in general.”
Property owners in rural Ontario were looking for “a timely and cost effective way to request changes to municipal drains that are located on their property, particularly where there’s a need and a benefit to that particular farmer and the project doesn’t really impact issues with regards to the rest of the property owners,” Brook explained.
Amended regulations that came into effect on June 30 will allow for that process.
The new process “allows farmers to request what’s called a Minor Improvement Project to be completed on the drain on their individual properties. And that regulation is where the details of that process are found and the criteria are there as well,” Brook said.
The regulation defines Minor Improvement criteria, including that the project should benefit the farmer, and have no impact on other property owners up or downstream on the drain. An example would be widening a drain crossing on a farm to accommodate newly purchased, larger machinery, Brook explained.
A “farmer can request and complete this form to submit to the municipality to have the municipality initiate the process,” he added. “So it’s still under the Drainage Act, they need the municipality as a partner, but it’s a much simplified process.”
The existing improvement project process under the Drainage Act is now called a Major Improvement Project, so if farmer wants to do something that doesn’t fit minor improvement criteria “it doesn’t mean the job can’t be done, it just means it may have to go back under the existing process,” Brook said.
“Another change that has just been made is the simplified process for the updating of an engineers report. The engineers report is what is designed and forms the basis for the drain,” he added. “The changes to the regulation also then allow for changes to be made during construction of a project.”
This change allows for more correct and accurate reports that help rural landowners plan maintenance or future changes for the drain, he explained.
“A drain that is constructed under the Drainage Act is a community asset, it’s really there to provide drainage services for all landowners in the watershed, and the local municipality is still the key partner,” Brook said.
As always, farmers should be “ensuring that farming activities are conducted consistent with being near a watercourse, whether it be a drain or a natural watercourse in terms of appropriate setbacks from the drain to ensure that soil, manure and nutrients stay out of that drain,” he added. “It’s to the benefit of everyone if water quality is as good as possible, as well obviously the farmers want to keep their soil and nutrients on the field.”
galinast\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo