Kalamaoo County

Office of the Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner

Responsibilities of the Drain Commissioner

The Drain Commissioner creates and maintains the county drains and provides storm water guidance and support to Kalamazoo County.

The Drain Code of 1956 is the primary statute that mandates the responsibilities of the county drain commissioner and provides for the creation and maintenance of county drains. Each drain has a contributing area (similar to a watershed) called a drainage district. A drainage district is a public corporation that is legally and financially responsible for maintaining the functioning of the drain. All costs are paid for by drain assessments. The drain commissioner acts as a steward for each drainage district. The drain commissioner keeps the historical, financial, and easement records; schedules maintenance; responds to service requests; requires permits for activities affecting the drain; borrows funds to pay for costs; and assesses the costs back to the landowners, transportation authorities, and municipalities, according to their estimated benefit. Apportionments - the fixed proportion owed by an entity for any costs - are adjusted as land use changes.

By statute, the county drain commissioner is authorized to expend up to $5000 per linear mile per year on maintenance on behalf of each drainage district. Projects involving the creation or expansion of drains or spending more than the authorized rate must be petitioned by landowners or municipalities. Those projects are subject to a more detailed authorization process.

The Drain Commissioner has additional responsibilities to provide storm water site development guidance, rules, and/or review for all new plats, mobile home parks, and condominiums in the county. The new Drain Commissioner's Site Development Rules are due to be released in Spring 2011

In 1972, the Federal Clean Water Act was enacted with the goal of restoring and maintaining the capacity for our nation's water to support fish, wildlife and recreation. Michigan adopted the federal program which controls pollution discharges to water through the use of storm water permits. In Kalamazoo County, the Drain Commissioner oversees the storm water permit for the County drainage districts and other properties owned by the County. Permit responsibilities include: assisting in the development of watershed management plans, writing site-specific storm water pollution prevention plans, discovering and stopping unlawful discharges into county drains, encouraging strategies for reducing runoff throughout the watersheds, and characterizing the phosphorus loading in the major drains flowing into the Kalamazoo River. It is expected that if water quality standards cannot be met by implementing these measures, efforts to control runoff will continue to become increasingly prescriptive.

The Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner has additional statutory responsibilities to serve on Inter-County Drainage Boards, Governmental Lake Boards, the County Emergency Preparedness Committee, the Board of Public Works, the Parks and Recreation Commission, standing Watershed Steering Committees, and to inspect dams at lakes with established legal levels. The Drain Commissioner meets regularly with the Road Commission of Kalamazoo County, Kalamazoo County Environmental Health, and the SW Michigan Association of Drain Commissioners. The Drain Commissioner is a partner in many other watershed groups such as: the Kalamazoo Storm Water Working Group, the phosphorus TMDL implementation committee, the Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, Friends of the St. Joe River, and seeks grants to create new projects targeting improved storm water management in Kalamazoo County. For detailed statutory references to the drains and drain commissioner's responsibilities:

  1. Fundamental Drain Procedures:
    MCL 280.1 et seq. The Drain Code of 1956, PA 40 OF 1956

    MCL 15.261 et seq. Open Meetings Act, PA 267 OF 1976

    MCL 15.231 et seq. Freedom of Information Act, PA 442 OF 1976 as amended by 1996 PA 591

    MCL 141.2101 et seq. Revised Municipal Finance Act, PA 34 of 2001

    MCL 211.741 et seq. Notice of Special Assessment Hearings, PA 162 OF 1962

  2. Statutes establishing site development oversight authority:
    MCL 559.101 et seq. Condominium Act, PA 59 OF 1978

    MCL 125.2301 et seq. The Mobile Home Commission Act, PA 96 OF 1987

    MCL 560.101 et seq. Land Division Act, PA 288 OF 1967

  3. Statutes affecting lake management and improvements:
    MCL 41.721 et seq. Public Improvements, PA 188 OF 1954

    MCL 324.30701 et seq. Inland Lake Levels, Part 307 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.30901 et seq. Inland Lake Improvements, Part 309 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.31501 et seq. Dam Safety, Part 315 PA 451 of 1994

  4. The National Pollution Discharge Pollution Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) Permit authorization by the State of Michigan:
    MCL 324.3101 et seq. Water Resources Protection, Part 31 PA ACT 451 of 1994

  5. Operational permits and exemptions:
    MCL 324.9101 et seq. Soil Erosion and Sediment Control, Part 91 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.30101 et seq. Inland Lakes and Streams Part 301 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.30301 et seq. Wetlands Protection, Part 303 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.32701 et seq. Great Lakes Preservation, Part 327 PA 451 of 1994

  6. Participation in local boards and commissions:
    MCL 123.731 et seq. County Department and Board of Public Works, PA 185 of 1957

    MCL 46.351 et seq. County and Regional Parks, PA 261 of 1965

    MCL 324.34101 et seq. Irrigation Districts, Part 341 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 30.401 et seq. Emergency Management Act, PA 390 OF 1976

  7. Authorization for the Drainage Districts and the Drain Office to seek bonds, grants and alliances with the intent to abate and prevent water pollution:
    MCL 324.4501 et seq. Bonds for Prevention and Abatement of Water Pollution, Part 45 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.8801 et seq. Water Pollution and Environmental Protection Act, Part 88 Act 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.31201 et seq. Watershed Alliances, Part 312 PA 451 of 1994

  8. Statutes explicitly forbidding waste discharges into drains:
    MCL 280.1 et seq. The Drain Code of 1956, PA 40 OF 1956

    MCL 324.4101 et seq. Sewerage Systems, Part 41 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.12101 et seq. Liquid Industrial Waste, Part 121 PA 451 of 1994

    MCL 324.16701 et seq. Used Oil Recycling, Part 167 PA 451 of 1994

  9. Miscellaneous other resources
    Common Law: Natural Flow Rights, Prescriptive Rights
    National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
              Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4)
              Storm water Permit for Kalamazoo County
    Michigan Drain Code Procedures and Practices Manual
    Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner's Office Policy
    Davis Creek TMDL Reduction Study Grant- Project 8635-0001
    Kalamazoo Community Foundation Spirit of Community Environment Fund:
              People's Rain Garden; A Community Demonstration Project