• Michigan Drain Code
    The Michigan Drain Code (Public Act 40 of 1956, as amended) is the law that governs the responsibilities of the Drain Commissioner (see “Links” section of this website). The Drain Commissioner, Robert J. Rose, and staff are responsible for the construction, operation, and maintenance of 375 established county drains in Ionia. The Drain Commissioner also serves on the Board of Public Works and Lake Improvement Boards of all lakes in the County.
    A drainage district is a defined area that contributes storm water runoff to a drain. A drain is established in one of two ways:Through a Petition Process where property owners or a local city, village, or township petitions the Drain Commissioner to establish a county drain. (see below).
    An owner of property may construct a drainage system at the owner’s expense and transfer authority for the operation and maintenance of the system to the Drain Commissioner through a Dedication Deed and Agreement (aka 433 agreement).
    The Drain Commissioner may in any one year, without a petition, expend up to $5,000.00 per mile, per drain for maintenance and repair. To recover costs, special drain assessments are levied against property owners, local governments, county roads, railroads and state highways benefited by the construction and / or maintenance.

    A right-of-way or “easement” for construction and maintenance is obtained on behalf of the Drainage District along each side of the Drain prior to construction. The right-of-way along a County remains in effect for as long as the Drain continues in existence.

    Not all ditches, streams, or underground pipes are County owned. There are many natural watercourses, ditches and underground pipelines that are not Drains. Most ditches along roads are not Drains. The Drain Commissioner has no authority over these systems. Most often, the responsibility for these systems lies with a landowner, County Road Commission, Michigan Department of Transportation, or the municipality in which the system is located. An inquiry to the Drain Commissioner’s Office is often the only way to be certain of the status of a ditch, stream, or pipe. County County Drains

    The County’s drainage systems are designed and constructed to handle rural development and agricultural storm water. As more of the County’s land surface becomes impervious (i.e. rooftops and paved parking areas) through development, storm water management becomes necessary. Therefore, all new developments in Ionia are required to incorporate storm water management measures to address the resulting runoff. Public Act 591 of 1951, the Michigan Land Division Act grants the Drain Commissioner authority to approve drainage for platted developments in accordance with published standards. In cooperation with various local governmental units in the County, the Drain Commissioner reviews drainage impacts and recommends approval of condominium projects, manufactured housing parks, a variety of commercial projects, gravel pits and private and / or public road extensions serving new developments.

    The Drain Commissioner is responsible for compiling all accounting records of financial activities for county drains and for preparation and maintaining records of the establishment and operation of all county drains.

    The Drain Commissioner serves on a statutory drainage board to oversee the management of intercounty drains established under Chapter 6 and maintained under Chapter 21 of the Michigan Drain Code. This intercounty drainage board consists of the Drain Commissioner of each county involved and Department of Agriculture representative who acts as a chairperson of the intercounty drainage board.

    In Ionia, the Drain Commissioner is also the designated County Enforcing Agent (CEA) under the Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act, Part 91 of Act 451 of 1994 and the Ionia County Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control (SESC) Ordinance. That is, County soil erosion and sedimentation control permits are issued through the Drain Commissioner’s office.

    Any flooding complaints or situations should immediately be reported to the Drain Office for evaluation. The Drain Office number is (616) 527-5373. Any drain maintenance request should also be directed to this number.

  • Petition Process
    A Petition is required to establish a new drain or make improvements beyond typical maintenance activities such as repairs to tile, removal of accumulated sediment and debris, and repairs to eroded banks, etc. The petitioning requirements vary for new, existing, or intercounty drains. The Drain Commissioner or Drainage Board will select a qualified engineer to design the drain construction or improvement project including publishing, bidding, review of apportionments, etc. After receiving a Petition, the Drain Commissioner appoints three people from outside the drainage district to serve as a Board of Determination. Notices are mailed to the entire drainage district that a meeting will be held to discuss the necessity of undertaking improvements to the drain. If the Board of Determination believes that it is necessary to improve the drain, they sign an Order of Determination instructing the Drain Commissioner to construct a project to improve the drain.
  • Assessments
    The drainage district for a county drain is actually a public corporation. It forms a special assessment district that is responsible for all costs on a drain project. When a construction project is undertaken on a county drain, part of the process involves an apportionment of the costs. That is, the Drain Commissioner must determine the proportionate share for each parcel of land within the drainage district and also for each municipality partially within the drainage district. A day is set aside for persons to review the apportionment and the procedure used in its determination. An appeal of the apportionment is possible. The total apportionment may be divided into annual payments. If money is borrowed on the project, interest must also be added to the annual principal payments. Project and maintenance costs are recovered through special assessments levied on private properties, local governments, county roads, railroads, and state highways.back to top.
  • Right-of-Way or “Easements”

    Right-of-way (easements) are granted to the Drain Commissioner’s office along all designated county drains for the purpose of allowing access to inspect, operate, maintain or repair the drain. Property owners retain ownership, but are restricted from building permanent structures that may impede drain maintenance within the easement area. Work done by the property owner within the easement, such as connecting to or installing a crossing requires a permit.

    Drainage Easements are obtained for specific uses such as storm water conveyance, storm water detention, ponding, and floodplain or as access routes for operating, maintaining or repairing county drains.
    Drainage Easements are not to be considered public areas and are not open to the public that may interfere with or reduce drainage and / or temporary storage capacity or may impede drain maintenance or surface or subsurface systems within the easement area. This includes, but is not limited to: swimming pools, sheds, garages, patios, decks, fences or other permanent structures or landscaping features.
    Easement width varies from drain to drain depending on the drain’s size and type. Some easements are of an unspecified width.
    No dumping of grass clippings, leaves, brush or other refuse is allowed within a drain easement. These items obstruct drainage, restrict flow, and plug culverts. This can lead to higher maintenance costs and can cause flooding situations.

State Resources

Drain Commissioner

Main Courthouse, Basement
100 W. Main Street
Ionia, MI 48846

Our office is located in the northeast corner in the basement of the Main Courthouse

Monday – Friday
8:30 a.m. – Noon &
1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

(616) 527-5373

(616) 527-5323