OFBF worked to modernize ditch petition processes

Constructive changes to Ohio’s ditch petition processes will go into effect soon, marking the culmination of several years of work by Ohio Farm Bureau and others to modernize the process and improve the state’s water quality.

Ohio Farm Bureau was a member of the Ohio Drainage Law Revision Task Force, established by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio in 2013, to identify problems and issues with the ditch process that landowners use to petition a county for drainage improvement projects. OFBF worked with county commissioners and engineers, OSU Extension, soil and water district representatives and others on recommendations for how to improve and modernize the ditch petition process.

Those recommendations were the basis for House Bill 340, which Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law Dec. 17. The bill, a key vote for Ohio Farm Bureau, goes into effect 90 days after it was signed.

“This legislation addresses long overdue revisions and modernizations needed in the petition drainage statutes. We appreciate the policy input from our members on how the process could be improved,” said Amy Milam, OFBF’s director of legal education and member engagement.

HB 340 included many modernizations, including allowing modern technology such as PowerPoint, digital maps or video/photographs via drone to be used to show the proposed drainage improvement’s location instead of requiring officials and interested parties to walk the entirety of the proposed site. The bill increased the minimum width of the required sod or seeded strip along the drainage improvement from 4 feet to 10 feet, while removing the entirety of the strip from the tax rolls. This will provide for better erosion and sediment control and aligns with Ohio Farm Bureau’s support for efforts that improve soil and water conservation efforts. The bill also ensures general property records of drainage improvements will be more accessible.

Ohio Farm Bureau was involved in helping reorganize the bill’s chapters for improved readability and replaced archaic terminology with modern terminology.

Further highlights of the bill:

  • Aligning Ohio law regarding the petition drainage process to increase efficiency.
  • Providing clarity when projects are multicounty by defining the lead county on the project.
  • Adding flexibility for determining the benefits of the project.
  • Updating several timeframes and deadlines to better reflect modern processes.
  • Clarifying the definition of and timeframe for filing an amendment.
  • Clarifying the permanent file of proceedings.
  • Clarifying factors for determining estimated assessments.