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Virginia CZM Program: 2014 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:CZM logo



Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission

Project Title:

Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority

Project Description as Proposed:

The MPPDC’s participating localities have worked diligently over the decades to remain consistent and compliant with increased nutrient reduction goals proposed by the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, Virginia’s WIP, and revised Virginia storm water management regulations to improve water quality. However amidst the numerous water quality regulations, programs, and policies aimed to protect the Chesapeake Bay many local policy problems remain.   Repetitive flooding, stormwater drainage and roadside ditching infrastructure failures as well as clogging continues to negatively impact water quality and further erode local government’s tax base throughout the Middle Peninsula. As each locality in the region experiences standing water in roadside ditches and outfalls due to decades of debris and sediment build-up, illicit filling of the ditches on private property, and/or failing ditches, there is a need to mend the  system in order to reduce flood risk, economic impacts (ie. the delay of commodity transport); damage to private and public infrastructure; risk to human life (ie. impedes fire and rescue vehicles, hampers the ability of school buses to reach children); risk to health; and environmental concerns for citizens and local decision makers.

In past project efforts (NA12NOS 4190168 and NA13NOS4190135 Task 94.02) the MPPDC staff sought to understand the various legal and owner issues associated with ditches along VDOT roads that have proved to be problematic. It was found that a complicated combination of private and public ownership and maintenance responsibilities are site-specific and varied from one ditch to another.  While this conclusion offered insight into the issue, it did not provide a direct path to improve or resolve drainage issues associated with roadside ditches. Additionally in 2012, through Project NA10NOS4190168 Task 94.02, MPPDC staff researched regulatory options to manage AOSS/OSDS through the creation of sanitary districts, sanitation districts, service districts, as well as the creation of an authority through the Virginia Water and Waste Authorities Act. Therefore to build on past effort, MPPDC staff proposes to explore the enabling mechanism in which a Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority may be developed. As this Authority would be responsible for prioritizing ditch improvement needs, partnering with and leveraging Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) funding, and ultimately working toward improving the functionality of the region’s stormwater conveyance system, MPPDC staff will address the following questions and create a framework for Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority that can be scalable to the local or regional level depending on the need:

i. Is there existing Virginia enabling authority to create a Regional Drainage and Road Ditch Authority? If not, what new legislation is needed?

ii. What funding approaches can could be used:  Ad Volurem; TIFF by policy; real estate tax revenue etc

iii. How can the Authority leverage available VDOT funding to fix a drainage issue?

iv. How can/will the Authority be staffed?

v. What does it cost for VDOT to provide equipment and staff to administer the ditch maintenance program and is there an opportunity to consolidate costs or cost share?

vi. What type of power will the Authority have?

vii. Can a ditching district be created to share public and private cost of ditch maintenance?

viii. Who can serve on this Authority?

Ditch maintenance and ownership issues revolve around three primary players: local government, private land owners and VDOT and each looks to the other to solve the problem.  Local governments indicate VDOT is responsible.  Private citizens look to either VDOT or the local government.  VDOT indicates they are only responsible for ditch drainage issues within the public right of way.   The development of a Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority may be a reasonable option moving forward to address region and county-wide drainage issues, particularly as financial and staff resources are limited.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Lewie Lawrence, 804.758.2311;

Project Status:

11/1/14 - 9/30/15; Project Closed

Final Product Received:

Drainage & Roadside Ditching Authority Final Report (PDF) 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Since 2012, the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission’s (MPPDC) participating localities have been eager to resolve inadequate stormwater drainage and the maintenance of roadside ditches throughout the region.

Initial efforts consisted of researching various legal and land owner issues associated with ditches along Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) roads that prove to be problematic (NA12NOS4190168 and NA13NOS4190135 Task 94.02). Then in 2014, Draper Aden Associates (DAA) partnered with MPPDC staff, Mathews County, and Mathews County citizens to develop an engineering study that focused on roadside ditches in four specific regions of the County. Based on site visits and discussions, DAA and Mathew County citizens developed recommendations to improve the ditches. While this effort provides Mathews County with some direction to resolve some of the ditching issues, this does not provide a solution to managing the network of ditches throughout the region.

In considering the management of the network of ditches within the Middle Peninsula, MPPDC staff has explored how a Regional Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority could be created. During this project, MPPDC staff gathered examples of domestic and international roadside ditching programs, policies, and regulations that could provide guidance to the MPPDC during development of a regional authority. With examples from as close as Maryland to case studies as far away as the Northern Periphery (i.e. Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Scotland, etc.), they all offer different approaches to roadside ditching. Additionally, MPPDC staff researched existing enabling legislation in Virginia under which a Regional Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority could be created. With a focus on prioritizing ditch improvements, MPPDC staff found two section of code that provides for the development of a regional authority, including the Virginia Water and Waste Authorities Act (§15.2-5102-§15.2-5127) and Service Districts (§15.2-2400-§15.2-2403). Each section of code authorizes different powers and a framework which will need to be considered by the MPPDC. Another aspect researched in this project was the funding mechanisms available to develop and sustain a Regional Drainage and Roadside Drainage Authority. 

Therefore, based on the case studies in this report as well as an understanding of the VAC framework under which a Regional Drainage and Roadside Ditching Authority could be developed, Middle Peninsula localities have options to address roadside drainage. Options for localities consist of taking no action, ditch revolving loan fund, local advisory committee, tax incremental financing, Virginia Water and Waste Authority, Service District and seeking new legislation.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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