Engineering – Drainage Services

Norfolk County is responsible for Maintenance, Repair, Improvements and Construction of Municipal Drains as regulated under the Drainage Act.

Drainage Services are provided through Drainage Superintendents and drainage staff within the Norfolk County Environmental and Infrastructure Services Division.

Municipal Drains may be any form of storm drainage system established under the Drainage Act. Primarily open ditch channels or closed field tile systems but they can be any combination of system to manage surface and ground water on both private and public lands.

Drainage staff are available to assist property owners in resolving private drainage issues in an effective and cost-efficient manner using the Drainage Act or guide owners to other available solutions.

You will find information below that can help you with your drainage needs, as well as contact information and details about ongoing projects.

COVID-19 Update

Please be advised that due to COVID-19, the timeframe for work initiated prior to and throughout the pandemic has been impacted. The County has resumed Public Hearings.  All projects and inspections are being accepted and reviewed in accordance with the requirements of the Drainage Act and will be scheduled accordingly, with some potential delay in order to accommodate any existing work that was impacted by the delays.

Public Hearings and Meetings are now being scheduled virtually using Microsoft Teams.  Applicable information will be provided to affected owners when meetings are scheduled.  Furthermore, public notifications will include information about how to attend virtual meetings and other options for providing comments.

Drainage staff continue to schedule inspections, meetings and project consultations remotely or in field in accordance with social distancing protocols.  Please contact the Drainage Services with any questions, comments or concerns.

Contact information

For general information or Municipal Drain service requests please e-mail: Drainage@NorfolkCounty.ca

To contact Drainage Services staff, use the contact information below:

Robinson Administration Building
185 Robinson Street, Suite 200
Simcoe, ON N3Y 5L6
Phone: (519) 426-5870
Email: Drainage@NorfolkCounty.ca
View Map


If you have been working with a specific staff member, you are welcome to contact them directly as follows:

Bill Mayes
Drainage Superintendent
Extension 8018
Bill.Mayes@NorfolkCounty.ca
Chris Dunn
Drainage Superintendent
Extension 1834
Chris.Dunn@NorfolkCounty.ca
Krista VanPaemel
Drainage Clerk
Extension 1207
Krista.VanPaemel@NorfolkCounty.ca
Morgan Van Laeken

Drainage Program Coordinator
Extension 1603
Morgan.VanLaeken@NorfolkCounty.ca

 

Drainage Infrastructure

Norfolk County has over 960 kilometers of Municipal Drains located throughout the County.

(650 km of Open Ditch – and 316 km Close Tile)

For reference, Municipal Drain infrastructure locations are available on the Norfolk County online interactive Maps Here: Norfolk County Online Interactive Maps LINK

Contact Drainage Services staff for specific drain reports, plans and details.

Municipal Drain Maintenance

Municipal Drain maintenance is an obligation of the municipality under the Drainage Act.  Once a drain has been constructed, the municipality becomes responsible for future maintenance in accordance with the current reports, plans and by-laws.

Scheduled Maintenance Program

Norfolk County has adopted a scheduled maintenance program to maintain open ditch municipal drains effectively and efficiently. Drainage staff endeavor to notify all residents of the scheduled work in the spring of each year.

The schedule is currently operating at a 5-6 year return period.

All drainage work is subject to Environmental Permits and Approvals, which may impose restrictions on when and what work can be completed on any system.

Property owners are required to maintain access to and along municipal drains for maintenance activities. Staff endeavor to work around land-use practices; however, owners will not be compensated for crop loss and/or damages in the event that access is necessary to complete drain maintenance activities.

In between scheduled maintenance activities, owners are encouraged to periodically inspect drains on or affecting their properties and report any issues to Drainage Services staff.

 

Tile Drains (Closed Pipe) Maintenance

Tile Drains (Closed Pipe) are maintained on an as-needed basis. Maintenance is initiated by Service Requests by owners or when identified through field inspections.

Owners are encouraged to periodically inspect tile drains crossing their property and keep catch basin and pipe inlets clear of all brush, vegetation, sediment, and debris that may cause blockages in the pipe.

 

Alternative Maintenance Programs

Alternative Maintenance techniques have been implemented on some systems including permanent sediment traps, buffers, and natural stream restoration techniques.

In the right conditions and locations, with owner buy-in, these practices can provide environmental benefits while maintaining drain flows and in some instances have reduced maintenance requirements proving an overall benefit to the owners affected by the drain.

 

Service Requests

Owners are encouraged to periodically inspect drains on their property and report any issues to Norfolk County Drainage Services staff.

For more information or Service Requests please contact Drainage Staff.

 

Notice: Damage and Obstruction of Drains

Any owner or occupant found to have damaged or obstructed a drain in any manner will be held responsible for the cost of restoration of the drainage works and may be subject to further court action including fines and imprisonment.

Municipal drains in Norfolk County are primarily open watercourses and are directly connected to the natural environment. Any unauthorized alterations and obstructions of any drainage system may be subject to Federal and Provincial environmental laws and enforcement.

Drain Construction Program

Construction, Improvements, and Alternations of Municipal Drains are initiated by owner petition or requests under the Drainage Act.  Through a regulated public process, a report is prepared by a drainage engineer and adopted under municipal By-law.

The Drainage Act regulates mandatory meetings and notices to owners of property, utilities, ministries, and road authorities throughout the design, appeal, and construction process.

Additional notices and meetings may be arranged as necessary at the request of the County or the engineer appointed by Council under the Drainage Act.

All Norfolk County notices are sent to the owner(s) of property according to the Norfolk County Tax Roll at the time of mailing.

Active Drain Construction Projects can be found here: Drain Construction Dashboard.

 

Drain Construction Projects

Click the links below to learn more about specific Drain Construction Projects around Norfolk County.

Paper copies of Reports, Plans and Specifications are available upon request, please contact Drainage Staff or e-mail Drainage@NorfolkCounty.ca.

If your property is affected by the project file being requested, there will be no applicable fee. If you are not an owner of property identified in the project file being requested, printing and mailing fees may apply.

 

Wetland Drain Restoration Program

Drainage Staff in Partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Long Point Conservation Authority and various other environmental agencies have established successful programs to enhance and restore wetlands and riparian vegetation on or adjacent to municipal drains.  These programs have proven reduced drain maintenance costs and improved water quality and quantity by enhancing existing natural features and wildlife habitat on the landscape throughout Norfolk County.

Property owners are encouraged to maintain grass riparian buffers adjacent to any open ditch. Riparian Buffers reduce or eliminate erosion and provide headland area and access for maintenance activities.

Who Pays?

Municipal Drains are user-pay systems

The County is responsible for Construction, Maintenance, and Repair of all drains through the Drainage Superintendents; however, all costs incurred by the County are assessable to lands, roads, and utilities according to the current drain by-laws.

Actual costs incurred by the County in maintenance or construction are tracked separately and “Assessed” or billed to the applicable properties upon completion.

Assessments are imposed against the property, not the property owner(s). It is the owner’s responsibility to disclose outstanding or potential drain assessments at the time of a property sale.

 

Types of Assessments

There are several factors that determine what portion of the cost is assessed to each property. The Drainage Act explains how an engineer is to calculate the assessments for each property. Typically, an engineer’s report will explain how the engineer calculated the assessments. Once adopted under by-law assessments are fixed until the report is amended in accordance with the Act.

The two most common assessments under the Drainage Act are Benefit Assessment and Outlet/Injuring Liability.

 

Benefit Assessment

The drainage works provide, in some form, a direct benefit to the property. This usually means the drain is on the property or the property has a direct connection to the drainage system.

Outlet/Injuring Liability

All properties that contribute runoff to a drainage system are liable for a portion of the cost. A Drain may only provide a direct outlet for a limited number of properties but due to the contributing area, the need and size of the system increases. The upstream lands and roads are liable for a proportion of this cost.

The Drainage Act specifically states outlet and injuring liability is based on volume and rate of flow. Paved surfaces contribute more runoff than farmlands; whereas bush lots contribute less runoff than farmland.

 

Grants

Registered Farm properties may be eligible for a 1/3 Grant relative to assessments under Drainage Act. Grants are regulated and administered through the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

Property owners are responsible for maintaining their farm property eligibility through OMAFRA. For more information regarding the Farm Business Registration Program: LINK HERE

Norfolk County is responsible for OMAFRA Grant applications on a per project basis. Any amounts received by Norfolk County are applied to the applicable property assessments prior to billing. Norfolk County is responsible for OMAFRA Grant applications on a per project basis. Any amounts received by Norfolk County are applied to the applicable property assessments prior to billing.

Guiding documents

Drainage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. D.17

Drainage Act and Conservation Authorities Protocol for Maintenance Activities.

Norfolk County Zoning By-law 1-Z-2014 Refer to Section 3.30 for setback from Municipal Drains

No new building or structure or part thereof shall be erected or enlarged nearer to any municipal drain, than specified as follows:

  1. a) in any Agricultural (A), Industrial, Rural Commercial (CR), Rural Institutional (IR) and Open Space (OS), Open Space (Tent and Trailer) (OST) Zones, 9 metres from top of bank to an open drain and where the top of bank is not definable, 9 metres from the centre-line of the drain. In the case of an enclosed drain, 4.5 metres from the centre-line of the drain;
  2. b) in any residential, urban or hamlet commercial and urban or hamlet institutional Zones, 4.5 metres from the top of bank of an open drain and where the top of bank is not definable, 4.5 metres from the centre-line;
  3. c) Subsections 3.30 a) and b) shall not apply to existing buildings or structures;
  4. d) notwithstanding Subsections 3.30 a) and b), if the working area described in a municipal drainage By-Law is greater than in Subsections 3.30 a) or b), the working area setback shall apply.

Applications Forms, Fees and Tools

Forms

Drainage Act Forms – Regulated and Suggested Provincial Forms and Templates

Fees

Norfolk County User Fee By-law : Drainage Services Fees

Tools

Ontario Drainage eReference Tool a reference tool including information, factsheets articles and links relating to Drainage Law, Types of Drains, Cropland Drainage and Drainage Conflicts in Ontario.

Ontario Agricultural Information Atlas an online interactive map produced by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs including soils and drainage across Ontario.

Committees

Court of Revision

The Court of Revision hears appeals on Drainage Act Assessments. Court of Revision hearings are scheduled following a drain report being adopted by Council. A Notice of Court of Revision will be sent to all affected owners of property identified within an engineer’s report prior to the hearing.

If a hearing proceeds past a single hearing date, only owners affected by the potential changes will receive notification of the Court of Revision Continuation Date.

Any decisions altering the engineers assessment will only be sent to the appellant and owners of all affected property.

The Committee of Adjustment’s Terms of Reference can be found here:

Committee of Adjustment Terms of Reference

For information on the Court of Revision Appeals, please download:

Committee of Adjustment Brochure

Alternative Hearings

Where possible and to save time and costs Norfolk County may elect to use an alternative hearing format. If there are no written appeals received 10 days prior to the hearing date, the County may elect to use a written or electronic hearing.

Electronic access details will be provided to affected owners in advance of the meetings, if applicable.

 

Minutes

Decisions are mailed only to those properties that filed an appeal or where a change has affected a property assessment.

Should you have any questions or concerns or if you require a copy of the Court of Revision Minutes, please contact the Drainage Clerk 519-426-5870 extension 1207.

Drainage Services Frequently Asked Questions

Drainage in Ontario is governed under Common Law. The provincial Drainage Act provides a steadfast solution to Common Law drainage disputes. The Drainage Act sets out the steps that the County must follow to establish and secure an engineered drainage system under by-law.

How long does it take to process a drain report?

Each drainage project has its own processing time which may vary greatly depending on how complex the design, environmental permits and approvals and public consultations. Requirements such as public notification, public meetings, the submission and approval of required studies, all play a role in determining the processing time.

For a simple project, Norfolk County staff are experiencing a minimum of 3-year period from the time a request is received to the date construction is complete.

February 2021 Update: Effective January 1, 2021, The Drainage Act was amended to include provisions for new regulations. Public consultation has been undertaken to enact a new regulation relating to a streamlined process for “Minor Improvement Projects” Norfolk County Drainage Services Staff are hopeful will alleviate some the engineering delays and associated costs.

 

Drain Assessment Apportionment Fees

Property severances, boundary adjustments, and minor land use changes affect the assessed portion applicable to each property. The Drainage Act provides a process to make minor adjustments to drain assessments.

At the time of a planning or development application, staff will apply a condition that the owner shall pay a fee to Norfolk County to address the property change. Once the property change is complete, the County will complete the engineering and administration to amend the assessments in the drain by-laws.

 

Reports and Notices of Public Meetings

Click here for information about attending a public meeting.

 

Information Meeting Notices

Owners of property effected by a drainage project will receive prior notice of meetings in accordance with the Drainage Act. Notices will be sent to the current owner(s) of property according to the County Tax Roll.

Place Holder for Meeting Notices Sample: Lot 5, Block 21, Plan 17B, Geographic Township of Woodhouse, Norfolk County File # ZNPL202046

Other Notices

Lake Erie Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment

On behalf of Norfolk County, the Long Point Region Conservation retained W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers to update flood, erosion, and dynamic beach hazard mapping for the County’s Lake Erie shoreline. The hazard mapping project is now complete, including the community engagement component as part of the deliverables. This project will support Norfolk County interests, including the municipal infrastructure, flood response, Official Plan, and Zoning By-law. The Lake Erie Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment is a technical document that maps the shoreline hazards using the most up-to-date information and is not a shoreline management plan.

View the Hazard Mapping Technical Report.

Disclaimer

Personal information submitted to drainage@norfolkcounty.ca is collected under the authority of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection Act, or for the purpose stated on the specific form being submitted through e-mail.  The information will be used by the Drainage staff administration for its intended submitted purpose.

Questions about the collection of personal information through this e-mail may be directed to:

Information and Privacy Coordinator
Norfolk County
50 Colborne Street South
Simcoe, Ontario, N3Y 4H3
519-426-5870 ext. 1261

Or the contact names of the form being submitted.