Press Release: Ditch Maintenance

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Submitted by David Barrow 

    Central, LA — The City of Central would like to remind residents on responsibility of maintaining ditches and servitudes on their property.   A confusing fact for many citizens is they think that ditches on the side or rear of their properties are owned and under the maintenance responsibility of the city of Central.  This is not necessarily the case.  In most cases, the ditches are the maintenance responsibility of the property owner.

    To help explain this, there is a difference between a “servitude” and a “right-of-way”.   A right-of-way is owned by the city, parish, or state.   A right-of-way is commonly associated with streets.  Most subdivision streets have a 50-foot right-of-way measured from the centerline of the street which includes the street and the associated shoulder and ditches.  Any maintenance issues within the right-of-way are the responsibility of the city, parish, or state depending upon which governmental entity owns the right-of-way.

    However, a servitude is a dedicated section across someone’s property for such uses as utilities, sewer, and drainage that is owned by the property owner and not by the city.   Most ditches along side yards or rear yards are located within 15 to 20-foot wide servitudes that are owned by the property owners and should be maintained by the property owners since the city does not own that property.  The original developers of subdivisions duly record on the final plats of subdivisions the dedicated servitudes across properties and lots.   No buildings, fences, or encroachments are allowed on servitudes, as these servitudes must remain unobstructed.

    A 2004 case from the Louisiana 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Meynard vs. Pickett Industries Inc., ruled that the city of Alexandria is not liable regarding the maintenance of a rear-yard ditch servitude because the city does not own the property and is not the custodian of the ditch servitude.  The city would only be liable and responsible it was shown as a “right-of-way” on a dedicated plat.  Therefore, residents are advised to check their plats for locations of servitudes across their properties.

    Residents can assist with drainage issues around the city by making sure that any ditches located in servitudes on their properties remain clear and free of obstructions and weeds.  According to city ordinance 2007-19, “no person shall impede or obstruct the passage flow of water of any gutter, ditch or drain, or in any manner dam the same, including sweeping or placing leaves, branches, or other debris in the gutter, ditch or drain or within any servitude or right-of-way used for drainage purposes.”  A fine can be assessed on any property owner found guilty of blocking a drainage path.


  1. mike mannino

    September 23, 2010 at 10:21 am

    What if its a natural drainage ditch that someone blocks that is not a servitude or right of way ? What if someone builds a berm on an entire fenceline to stop the natural flow of water across his property ? Does the City have any enforcment power to make the property owner remove this ?

  2. David Barrow

    September 23, 2010 at 11:02 am

    If anyone does anything to impede the natural flow of water on a servitude or right-of-way, they can be required to remove it. We have had cases before where someone installed culverts that were too small across ditches, and we have had to tell them to remove them because they ended up causing drainage problems.

    If it is a natural drainage flow that is not on a servitude or right of way, and someone blocks the flow and causes problems for a neighbor, then that may end up being a civil matter between the two property owners.

  3. Jennifer Albarado

    September 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    I know this is probably not a govt problem seeming as if the ditches on this certain property have been cleaned recently but how do we go about asking a property owner to TRIM their overflowing growth on their property if there is no homeowner and we don’t know the owner of the property just by observation. This property is located at the corner of Hubbs and Denham and is a serious safety issue and I am really concerned for myself and others having to pull out of Hubbs onto Denham without being able to see what is coming from the right.

  4. resident

    September 23, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    AMEN Jennifer!!!! This property has been for sale for years and it seems that since Denham and Hubbs are in the City of Central, those trees could or should be removed! Whoever cut the grass around the fire hydrant recently helped some, but you still cant make a safe left hand turn on to Denham off of Hubbs because of the trees obstructing the view.

  5. NeedsClarity

    September 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Does this include ditches and culverts that are in front of the property, along the streets? (neightborhood or otherwise)

    The city-parish has always kept the ditches up and patched up these culverts before. New culverts are supposed to be paid for by the residlnt, because it is an upgrade from the minimum required ditch. The parish usually fixes clogs, erosion and holes in these that happen from time to time.

  6. David Barrow

    September 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Needs Clarity: You are correct. If the ditch is within the public street right-of-way, it is the city’s (or parish’s or state’s) responsibility. Please refer to the second paragraph in the article for a further explanation.

    Jennifer and resident: The city does maintain the right-of-way at that location; however, those trees are on private property and outside of the public right-of-way. Our crews did start to trim/cut one of the trees at that location until it was discovered that the tree was on private property. We do have some safety improvements scheduled for that intersection and curve. A consultant is currently working on the plans through a state grant that we received as part of safety improvements planned for Denham Road.

    Thank you.

  7. resident

    September 24, 2010 at 8:36 am

    David, Can you tell us when these improvements will begin?

  8. David Barrow

    September 24, 2010 at 9:52 am

    There are some improvements scheduled for several curves along Denham Rd. These improvements are being funded through DOTD through the Local Road Safety Program through a grant which I wrote and applied for last year. Our application scored the highest in the state.
    The improvements include centerline rumble strips in the curves along Denham Rd (similar to those on LA1019 in Livingston Parish on the highway headed to Watson). New thermoplastic striping will be installed, providing better reflectivity at night, as well as new high-intensity curve warning signs and markings.
    Similar improvements will be made in the curves on Devall Rd, Frenchtown Rd, and Lovett Rd. All of these improvements are being done to reduce head-on collisions in these curves based upon prior accident data.
    The contract with the consulting engineering firm to design the project was just recently signed by DOTD earlier this month. It is anticipated that work could begin in early 2011. This project has to be let out for bids by DOTD.
    Additionally, I am doing some studies to consider lowering the speed limit on Denham to either 50 or 45 mph; however, any change in speed limit will have to be justified by a study.
    I am also going to personally go out to Denham & Hubbs and measure the sight triangle to make sure that there are no obstructions within this sight triangle.

  9. Alvin McLeod

    September 24, 2010 at 9:55 am

    David, thank you for issuing this statement. This has been a problem in Central and throughout the parish for some time now. I think that it’s good this article was published so that the citizens can understand exactly what can happen by impeding a natural drain. We had an incident wherein a neighbor built a dam in order to divert water into a pond on his property impeding the natural drain of the water. A major rain event of seriously heavy rains occurred and caused a back up of 14 inches of water into our buildings. This would not have happened if the natural drain had not been blocked.

    Had it not been a neighbor and considering the issues, this could have resulted in a serious civil suit.

  10. Wade Evans

    September 25, 2010 at 6:19 am

    Mike, precedence has been set about your question, and if it is a case of discharge from a septic system, fed into the ditches, those ditches cannot be forced to run across your property unless it is dedicated as drainage on the recorded plat

  11. Mike Mannino

    September 25, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks for the info Wade. Ive got a different scenario where my neighbor has a berm on his property and an undersize culvert in the natural drain. Does OK under mormal rains but a heavy rain floods my entire back pasture and backs up water to the North. EBR told him to take it out years ago but he wouldnt comply. Hasnt been an issue I couldnt deal with until now but my sons want to build back there and this will create a major problem to get across.

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