General Information About Drainage Districts
Iowa Drainage Laws can be found in Chapter 468 of the Iowa Code
Drainage districts were established for drainage of surface waters from agricultural and other lands for the protection of said lands from overflow when said protection is a public benefit or is conducive to public health, convenience, and welfare (Section 468.2, State Code Of Iowa).
Districts are established by the Drainage District Trustees at the request of the land owners within the proposed district (Section 468.6-468.8). Petitions and actions to establish are kept in the minute books in the county courthouse.
Under the Code Of Iowa, Chapter 468 the County Board Of Supervisors acts as Drainage District Trustees in all District matters. The land owners of a particular district may, if they wish, elect their own trustees and maintain the district themselves.
Requests for repairs should be directed to the drainage clerk in the courthouse. Complaints, problems, or questions can also be made to the Auditor's Office.
The trustees are required by the Code Of Iowa (Section 468.126) to maintain all drainage districts at their original capacity. Notice of repairs is only required when the cost will exceed $50,000.
Land owners in the district, not the County, own and pay for all maintenance and repairs to that district. An independent contractor hired by the trustees will do the work and bill the cost to the district.
Assessments are made as necessary to pay for engineering costs, improvements, and repairs within a given drainage district.
Assessments or classification of land in a drainage district is based on the benefit that land is seen to receive from being in the district.
The original assessed value of any parcel of land within a district was set when that district was established and is the basis for all assessments unless the district is reclassified by the trustees (Section 468.49).
Assessments represent a percentage of the original assessment.
Drainage districts are not levied on a regular basis. Drainage districts are levied when district funds drop to zero. When a district is levied the trustees set the percentage such that a surplus remains after all bills are paid. The district will not be levied again until its funds are depleted which depends on the amount of work required in the district.
Delinquent drainage assessments become a lien on the property (Section 468.51). The property can then be sold for back taxes/assessments just as it can be sold for non-payment of property taxes (Section 468.158-.162). Members can not exempt themselves from the district unless the district is dissolved (Sections 468.250-468.261).
The Production & Environmental Benefits of Drainage
It is estimated that more than 9 million acres of of the state of Iowa are drained which constitutes almost 26% of the state's land mass. There are more than 3,700 drainage districts state-wide, most of which are located in north central and northwest Iowa. Because of our incredibly flat terrain, there is an abundance of drainage districts located in Monona County. And, because of our predominantly agricultural economy, they are an essential part of our landscape. The positive impact of drainage is seen in many ways:
- Increased Yields - Research varies as to how much of an increase there is. A comprehensive 20-year study done in Canada showed a 29% average increase in corn yields on tiled vs. non-tiled land and a 26% increase in soybean yeilds. A 10-year study in Ohio showed a corn yield increase due to drainage of 40 bushels per acre.
- Plant roots receive enough oxygen to mature properly.
- Soil surface temperatures are increased which helps seeds germinate.
- Plants roots are grown deeper into the soil so they can absorb more nutrients.
- Water damage to public roads is inhibits.
- Storm water runoff is absorbed and downstream flooding is reduced.
- The chances of water-bourne diseases are reduced.
- Since the soil can absorb and store more rainfall, runoff from the soil surface is reduced. Thus, soil erosion is reduced.
- Since fields dry out more quickly with drainage, the number of days available for planting and harvesting crops is increased.
- Crop loss due to drowning is decreased.
- Land values are increased.
- Soil structure is improved. Soil needs to be drained to avoid soil compaction and structural damage, both of which reduce yields.
- Soils bearing strength is increased. The bearing strength of soil depends on its water content which in turn is affected by the depth of the water table. Good soil drainage increases soil strength and reduces damage caused by farming operations.
- Promotes energy-conserving efficient farming practices and facilitate no-till and conservation tillage methods.
- Reduces losses of sediments, phosphorus, ammonium-nitrogen, pesticides, micro-organisms and antibiotics