Drain Commissioner

Michael Rivard

Bay County Building
515 Center Avenue, Suite 601
Bay City MI 48708-5941
Voice: (989) 895-4290
Fax: (989) 895-4292

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a County Drain?

A County Drain is a public utility created for improved drainage of a certain area known as a Drainage District.  The Drainage District is all of the area, which contributes storm water runoff to the Drain.  The Drain and the Drainage District are established through a process involving petitions and public hearings. 

A County Drain may be an open ditch, a stream, and an enclosed drain or retention pond that conveys storm water.  These systems were designed to provide storm water management, drainage and flood prevention for agricultural and developed lands.

What is a Drain right-of-way?

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.

What is not a County Drain?

Not all ditches and streams are County Drains.  There are natural watercourses, private ditches and roadside ditches that are not considered County Drains.  Contacting the Drain office is generally the best way to inquiry whose has jurisdiction over a ditch.

How does a drain project begin?

A petition is required to initiate a County Drain project.  The petitioning requirements vary for new, existing or Intercounty Drains.  . The Drain office will prepare and issue the petition at the request of a landowner.  The landowner circulates the petition within the drainage district to obtain a predetermined amount of signatures and returns the petition to the Drain office.  Once the signatures on the petition have been verified, the petition is determined to be a valid petition.  The Drain Commissioner appoints three people from outside the Drainage District to act as a Board of Determination.  Notices are mailed to the entire Drainage District announcing a public hearing that has been scheduled to receive public input regarding the necessity of improving 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.

How are drain projects funded?

Each drain is encompassed by its drainage district.  This is a special assessment district, which is responsible for all costs related to construction or maintenance of the drain.  When a construction project is undertaken on a County Drain, the construction costs are assessed to the drainage district and any municipality that has land or interest in the drainage district.  Each landowner liable to an assessment is notified by mail and such notice is published in a newspaper of general circulation regarding the Day of Review, a day set aside for persons to review their apportionment.

How do I get my driveway culvert replaced and who is responsible?

Driveway culverts are the landowner's responsibility.  Please call the Drain Office 989-895-4290 for a permit and tile size.

When do I need a permit from the Drain Commissioner?

A permit is required for

  Replacing a driveway culvert or headwalls

  Crossing or paralleling a county drain

  Tapping or discharging clean storm water into a county drain



Who is responsible for removing the dead tree in the drain?

Trees in the drain ROW are the property of the landowner.  When the trees fall into the drain, removal is the land owner responsibility.



Drain Maintenance


All maintenance of County Drains is performed by Drain Commissioner staff or authorized agent on behalf of the Drain Commissioner.


Maintenance of a County Drain may include any of the following;


  Removal of an obstruction

  Modest sediment removal

  Vegetation management