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Minnesota Drainage Law and Related Provisions

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2016 10th International Drainage Symposium Conference, 6-9 September 2016, Minneapolis, Minnesota  .(doi:10.13031/IDS.20162523011)
Authors:   Allan M. Kean
Keywords:   agriculture, drainage, policy, water management.

Abstract. Minnesota has a long history of state law regarding joint landowner projects for agricultural drainage. The first state drainage law was enacted in 1858, the same year Minnesota became a state. The key purposes of the law were to facilitate drainage systems across property lines and government jurisdictions to better enable agricultural drainage and land use, as well as for roads, public health and economic activity. These drainage systems include both open ditches and subsurface tile. State drainage law is currently in Minnesota Statutes Chapter 103E Drainage. Chapter 103E drainage systems are administered by a local government drainage authority (county board, joint county board, or watershed district board), in accordance with the drainage law and other applicable provisions. Key aspects of Minnesota drainage law include:

Primarily petition based, except routine repairs.

Drainage proceedings typically require noticing and conducting of hearings.

Key advisors to drainage authorities and benefited landowners include engineers, legal counsel, county auditors, drainage inspectors, and viewers.

Viewers determine monetary benefits and damages of drainage systems using mass appraisal methods at the scale of a lot, 40-acre (16.19 ha) tract, and fraction of a lot or tract under separate ownership.

Drainage system costs for right-of-way acquisition, construction and repair are assessed pro rata to the benefited properties, based on relative benefits.

As public waters, wetland conservation, water quality and related law developed from the mid-1900s to the present time in Minnesota, additional requirements, permissive authorities and considerations have been added to drainage law. These include environmental, land use and multipurpose water management considerations and authorities.

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