Agricultural drainage infrastructure program: administrative policies
Learn about grants for municipal drain construction, improvement, maintenance, repair and operations under the Drainage Act, 1990.
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Part I: preamble
The Drainage Act provides the legislative vehicle for the construction and management of many of the communal drainage systems in rural Ontario. The local municipality is responsible for the management of the drainage systems located within their municipal boundaries and the cost of work is assessed to the landowners in the watershed of the drain.
These drainage systems, often known as "municipal drains," are vital to the communities, roads and surrounding lands in rural Ontario. They reduce flooding, improve safety and reduce property damage. They are as important to rural Ontario as storm sewers are to urban areas.
Municipal drains are fundamental for an effective and competitive agricultural industry. Private sub-surface agricultural drainage systems are dependent on municipal drains as an outlet. On agricultural land, private drainage systems reduce soil erosion, sediment transport into receiving waterbodies and damage to the soil structure while improving land trafficability, weed control and increasing crop productivity.
To encourage the development of agricultural land in an environmentally responsible manner, the province provides grants towards assessments on agricultural land for cost of municipal drain construction, improvement, maintenance, repair and operations. The provision of these grants for activities under the Drainage Act is called the Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program.
Part II: legislative authority
Sections 85 to 90 of the Drainage Act allow the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to provide grants for various activities conducted under this act. These sections provide some general direction on grant eligibility based on type of work, land use and cost components. It also details the grant rates and provides direction on the collection and distribution of grants. However, Sections 85 and 87 make it very clear that the provision of grants is not an obligation, but are provided at the discretion of the Minister. Under Section 91, the Minister may appoint a Director for the purposes of the Drainage Act. Much of the Minister's authority has been delegated to the Director.
Therefore, policies have been developed to supplement the requirements already specified in the Drainage Act and to ensure that the public funds are being used effectively.
Part III: policies
1.0 Basic eligibility criteria for all work under the Drainage Act
All municipal drain activities and projects must be completed in accordance with the procedures of the Drainage Act, and must comply with applicable law. All necessary permits, approvals and authorizations under provincial and federal environmental laws must be obtained.
The acquisition of services for municipal drain activities or projects must comply with the municipal policies for the procurement of goods and services adopted and maintained by the municipality under subsection 270(1) of the Municipal Act, 2001.
2.0 Drain construction or improvement projects
2.1 Basic eligibility criteria
- The cost of construction, allowances, engineering, legal fees, application fees, postage, photocopying, taxes and interest charges form part of the cost of the construction or improvement project. The cost of the members of the Court of Revision, if not members of council, may also form part of the cost of the project. Project costs are to be assessed to the landowners in the watershed of the drain in accordance with the assessment schedule contained within the engineer's report. In accordance with the Drainage Act, and subject to Sections 2.1 to 2.5 of this document, the assessments that are imposed on agricultural land are eligible for grant at the rate specified in the act.
2.2 Clarification on "lands used for agricultural purposes"
- Where any portion of a property is eligible for the Farm Property Class Tax Rate, the total affected property area will be considered "lands used for agricultural purposes," eligible for the Drainage Act grants. (Visit the OMAFRA website for more information on the Farm Property Class Tax Rate Program.)
- Where a property is not currently eligible for the Farm Property Class Tax Rate, but where the property owner has a written plan for the development of the property for agricultural purposes that has been verified by a local OMAFRA representative, the portion of the property to be developed for agricultural purposes will be eligible for grant.
- If a drain construction or improvement project is designed to accommodate non-agricultural use of existing agricultural land, no grant will be paid towards assessments on the land being developed. A grant will still be provided to other eligible lands used for agricultural purposes provided the assessments to be imposed are approximately the same as those that would result if the drainage works were designed for agricultural lands only.
2.3 Ineligible projects or project costs
- Ineligible Costs: The following costs may not be claimed as part of the cost of the drainage project and are not eligible for grant:
- Cost of council meetings or special council meetings or payment to the clerk of the municipality in connection with the administration of the project (Drainage Act, Subsections 73(2), (3)).
- The fees or other remuneration of the Drainage Superintendent, who may assist in the supervision of the construction (Drainage Act, Subsection 93(4)).
- Any appeal costs of another affected municipality against the report of the initiating municipality, unless the initiating municipality has been ordered by an appeal body to pay all or part of the local municipality's appeal costs.
- Although photocopying and mailing costs may be charged to the drainage project and eligible for grant, other municipal overhead costs are not eligible.
- The rebate portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax.
- Interest charges on a drainage project accruing after 120 days from the completion of the project (Drainage Act, Subsection 88(2)).
- Engineering costs incurred prior to the municipal appointment of the engineer cannot be included as part of the project costs and are not an eligible cost item for grant payment.
- Except in emergency situations as designated by the Minister, where a municipality performs, consents to or authorizes construction or improvement work on a drain prior to the passing of a bylaw adopting an engineer's report, the unauthorized work will not be eligible for grant. 1
- Grants will not be paid on the construction or improvement of drainage systems that drain through or from "significant wetlands" as defined in the Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act, unless the engineer's report demonstrates that there will be no negative impacts on the wetland's natural features or their ecological functions. This policy does not apply to:
- Maintenance and repair of existing municipal drains that drain through or from significant wetlands
- Improvement projects that intend to re-establish or enhance a wetland area (Wetland Drain Restoration Project)
- Drain improvement projects where the municipal drain channel through or from the wetland will not be modified from its original design
- When undertaking a drain improvement project (Drainage Act, Section 78), the cost to develop a new assessment schedule for a watershed area beyond that for which the improvement work is being done is only eligible for grant if the cost to prepare the additional assessment schedule(s) is less than 25 per cent of the engineering costs for the total project. The engineer must ensure that the cost of developing the additional assessment schedule(s) is separated from the cost of the improvement project.
- The cost of enclosing or replacing an existing open ditch municipal drain with a buried pipe is not eligible for grant if, using normal design standards, more pipe flow capacity is required than can be provided by a single 300 millimetre (mm) diameter corrugated plastic pipe (or equivalent capacity). An exception may be made if evidence is provided to the satisfaction of the Director that a drain enclosure is required to address bank slumping or erosion problems on the drain, and the Director's written approval is provided in advance.
- Where an existing open ditch municipal drain can be enclosed or replaced with a single 300 mm diameter corrugated plastic pipe (or equivalent capacity), grant will be provided under the following conditions:
- The required pipe capacity is calculated using no less than a 12 mm (0.5 inch) drainage design coefficient.
- On a single property, the total cost to enclose/replace an open ditch is no more than $15,000 per drain. If the cost to enclose the drain across a property is greater than $15,000, grant will be paid on the first $15,000 only. A drain is considered to be the main channel and any branches that outlet into the main channel on that property.
- Except for the equivalent cost of an access crossing, the cost of lawn piping is not eligible for grant.
- Farm and access crossings are eligible for grant, with the following exceptions:
- For every drain, every agricultural property is entitled to one drain crossing. Any additional crossing on this property will not be eligible for grant.
- Notwithstanding (A) above, any new crossing required as a result of any lot severance that occurred after July 28, 2004, is not eligible for grant.
- Any special feature on a crossing (for example, decorative headwalls, surface pavement) is not eligible for grant.
- Any crossing located on a residential property but shared with an adjoining agricultural property is eligible for grant only if the agricultural property has an agreement for use that has been registered on property title. A copy of the agreement must accompany the grant application. If the agreement is subsequently nullified and a crossing is required for the agricultural land, the cost of the crossing is not eligible for grant.
- A crossing constructed on agricultural land for the purpose of utility access (for example, Hydro One, gas lines) is not eligible for grant.
- Where a crossing is proposed on agricultural land that has received an allowance for loss of access (Drainage Act, Section 33) within the previous 30 years, the original allowance amount should be assessed to the affected property and is not eligible for grant.
- The increased cost to a drainage project for hauling away of spoil material is not eligible for grant.
- The construction of a farm pond as part of a municipal drain project is not eligible for grant.
- The construction of new fencing along a drain is not eligible for grant.
- The accepted maximum design standard for pipe drainage systems in agricultural areas is the 38 mm (1.5 inches) coefficient using the Subsurface Drainage Coefficient Design Method. The increased cost to design to a higher standard is not eligible for grant unless the engineer determines that a higher design standard is required to address physical problems on the drain.1
- Since the Drainage Act requires the engineer to specify the required work, any optional features provided in an engineer's report are not eligible for grant.
- The 1998 paper entitled "Allowances And Compensation Under The Drainage Act" by E.P. Dries, P.Eng., and D.R. McCready, P.Eng., presents an equitable method for determining allowance values and will be used by the ministry as guidance for determining reasonable allowance costs.
- Allowances for Right of Way, etc. (Drainage Act, Section 29)
- Allowances must be based on actual area land values. The Farm Credit Canada and Municipal Property Assessment Corporation websites may provide some guidance in establishing area farmland values.
- Where a drain previously constructed in an unorganized territory through a government program is subsequently incorporated into a municipal drain, no grants will be paid for allowances for the area of land already being used by the existing drainage system.
- Where an existing natural watercourse is incorporated into a municipal drain, grants will not be paid on allowances for the area of land already taken by the existing natural watercourse.
- Where an existing municipal drain is being relocated, grants will only be paid for allowances for the increase in loss of land and added working space.
- Amount for Damages, etc. (Drainage Act, Section 30)
- Allowances provided for damages to crops must be based on the area to be affected, the type of crops grown and the anticipated area crop yields or crop input costs.
- Allowance for Existing Drains (Drainage Act, Section 31)
- Where a drain previously constructed in an unorganized territory through a government program is subsequently incorporated into a municipal drain, no grants will be paid for allowance under Section 31.
- If an engineering report incorporates work described in 2.3(b) with an allowance under Section 31 of the Drainage Act, no grants will be paid on the allowance.
- Allowance for Loss of Access (Drainage Act, Section 33)
- No grant will be paid on an allowance for loss of access except when the cost of providing a crossing exceeds the value of the land losing access.1
2.5 Engineering reports
In addition to the mandatory requirements of an engineer report as stipulated in the Drainage Act, the following information is now required in the report to support the grant eligibility.
- The design standard used in designing the drain. If a drain is designed to a higher than normal standard at the request of a landowner(s), the report must indicate the increased cost resulting from the higher standard and this must be assessed as a special benefit. If a drain is designed to a higher than normal standard to address physical problems on the drain, the report must state the reasons why the higher standard was used.
- Area land values on which allowances have been based. If land values are used that exceed the area norm, the engineer must provide an explanation in the report.
- If all or a portion of an open ditch municipal drain is to be enclosed to address bank slumping and erosion problems on an existing municipal drain, the engineer must provide justification in the report.
While the engineer must include a schedule in the report showing the assessments levied against each property or road, the engineer is not required to include in the report the detailed calculations used to determine these assessments for each individual property. However, the engineer must make this information available to any requesting assessed landowner.
2.6 Preliminary reports
- The grant for a preliminary report (Drainage Act, Section 85(c)) will only apply if the project is terminated after the meeting to consider the preliminary report.
- For a new drain project (Drainage Act, Section 4), the termination must be put into effect through the withdrawal of names from the petition.
- For a drain improvement project (Drainage Act, Section 78), the termination must be put into effect with a resolution of council.
- Any costs incurred after the meeting to consider the preliminary report are not eligible for grant.
- The application for grant must include a copy of the preliminary report and proof of the termination of the project.
- The preliminary report must be "preliminary" in nature. A preliminary report may contain different options for consideration along with associated costs and preliminary sketches. However, a preliminary report containing assessment schedules and/or detailed plans, profiles and/or specifications will not be eligible for the grant.
- The cost of producing any information outside the scope of a preliminary report is not eligible for grant.
2.7 Construction/improvement queue
After the time for appealing has expired and a bylaw adopting an engineer's report for the construction or improvement of a drain has been given third reading and is finally passed, the project is ready for construction. To confirm availability of funding for the project, a municipal representative must notify the ministry that the project is ready to proceed to construction, using a form provided by the Director. The information may be sent by regular mail, faxed or emailed. Notification provided prior to third reading of the bylaw will not be accepted.
Upon receipt of the completed notification form and a copy of the passed bylaw enacted by the municipality, the ministry will enter the project information into the annual queue of projects. The information will only be entered on a first-come, first-served basis. The ministry will respond to each notification form. The response will confirm whether or not the ministry has sufficient program budget in the current fiscal year to accommodate a grant application for the project in question. A positive response will stress that this is not a confirmation of project grant eligibility. If a municipality is informed that the ministry budget cannot accommodate a grant application for the project in the current fiscal year, the municipality may:
- decide to proceed with the construction of the project and apply for the grants. If grant funding becomes available, the application will be processed. If grant funding does not become available, the application will be processed in the following fiscal year.
- postpone the construction of the project until the following fiscal year.
Projects listed on the queue that were not funded in one fiscal year will be carried to the queue for the following fiscal year.
Some drainage projects, after receiving confirmation of availability of grant, may be terminated or postponed by the municipality or may be delayed for any number of reasons (for example, weather conditions, legislative delays). In these cases, the ministry must be notified if the municipality anticipates that the grant will not be applied for in that year.
Grant applications received for construction or improvement work, where no notification had been provided previously, will be added to the bottom of the queue.
2.8 Grant application
- Grant applications for the construction or improvement of a municipal drain must be claimed within one year after the work has been certified complete.
- Grant applications for the drain construction or improvement projects must be submitted on the form provided by the ministry by February 15 of each year.
- With rare exception, the engineer who prepared the report must sign the grant application.
- The following information must be provided with these grant applications:
- A copy of the bylaw authorizing the construction or improvement project. If this bylaw has been provided as part of the notification (see section 2.7 above), an additional copy need not be sent.
- A copy of the engineer's report for the project. If, through the Drainage Act process, a copy of the report had previously been provided to the ministry, an additional copy need not be sent.
- Copies of all decisions affecting the report (Court of Revision, Tribunal, Referee).
- Submission of an electronic copy of the drain plan, preferably in a data format that can be imported into the Land Information Ontario data warehouse.
- On occasion, after a drain construction or improvement project has been certified complete and the applicable grant has already been claimed, repairs are subsequently required to the drain. A municipality may claim a "grant application adjustment" on the added cost of this repair work to the project, provided
- the repair work was performed within one year after the drain construction or improvement work has been certified complete
- the total adjustment grant does not exceed $1,000 or five per cent of the total actual initial cost of the work, whichever is higher
- these limits do not apply when complying with Tribunal orders on "Quality of Construction"
3.0 Drain maintenance, repair, minor improvements and operations
- No grants will be applied to drain maintenance, repair or minor improvement projects less than $500 in total cost. For the purpose of this policy, the removal of several beaver dams on one drain in one year or the repair of a tile municipal drain in several locations in one year shall be considered one project.
- Regardless of the designation of the land in the engineer's report, grants will only be applied to lands currently assessed at the Farm Property Class Tax Rate.
- Grants for drain maintenance, repair, minor improvements or operations must be claimed in the provincial fiscal year in which the work was performed.
- Interest incurred on maintenance, repair, minor improvement and operational costs are not eligible for grant.
- Administrative costs (for example, postage, photocopying, advertising) are not eligible for grant.
3.2 Application process
- Grant applications for the maintenance, repair, minor improvement and operational costs incurred must be submitted prior to the last business day in April of each year.
- The grant applications must be submitted on the forms provided by the ministry, complete with all required supporting documentation.
- For each grant application form (maximum 10 projects), supporting documentation must be provided for one project. This supporting documentation includes:
- a copy of the drain plan, with the complete watershed, indicating where the project work was performed
- a copy of the maintenance and repair instructions and the assessment schedule from the current engineer's report, as adopted by the last bylaw. A copy of the schedule that assesses the costs for the project may also be included. The schedule must indicate the properties eligible for the Farm Property Class Tax Rate.
- The municipality must provide a list of all maintenance, repair, minor improvement and operational projects performed in the previous calendar year, including projects where a maintenance grant application is not being submitted. The list must include the drain name, description of work and total cost of the work performed.
4.0 Cost of employing a drainage superintendent
4.1 Allocation requests
- Using a form provided by the ministry, each municipality must annually submit an "allocation request" to the ministry, identifying their anticipated grant requirements for the cost of employing a drainage superintendent. This form may be modified, with ministry approval, for municipalities with multiple drainage superintendents.
- This request must be submitted each year by the last business day of February.
- Grants will not be paid in excess of the allocation provided to that municipality.
4.2 Drainage superintendent costs
- The primary responsibility of the drainage superintendent is to maintain, repair and operate the municipality's drainage systems constructed under the Drainage Act. The superintendent's responsibilities may also include other duties related to municipal drains. Appendix A describes the possible duties of the drainage superintendent. The superintendent's time performing these duties is eligible for grants under Section 85(b) of the Drainage Act.
- Some superintendents perform work that is not considered the responsibility of the drainage superintendent. While this does not preclude them from performing this work, the time spent by the superintendent performing this work is not eligible for grant. Examples of work ineligible for the drainage superintendent grant include:
- Any duties assigned to the clerk by the Drainage Act, including arranging meetings and sending notices.
- Treasurer functions: while the superintendent should provide the treasurer with the details and location of the work performed, it is the responsibility of the treasurer to calculate the individual assessments and levy and collect the assessments.
- Any time spent by a drainage superintendent arranging or performing the construction, improvement, maintenance or repair of any drainage systems other than a municipal drain. These include, but are not limited to, mutual agreement drains, roadside ditches, private ditches and award drains.
- Any time spent by a drainage superintendent performing the role of the contractor by maintaining or repairing a municipal drain. The superintendent's time and expense incurred in performing actual physical work on a drain can be charged to the drain and may be eligible for grant under the "maintenance" program. (See Drainage Act, Section 81).
- While it is appropriate for the superintendent to review and comment on the impacts of severances and subdivisions on municipal drains and assessment schedules, the time spent reviewing and commenting on subdivision drainage or lot grading plans is not eligible for the superintendent grant.
- Engineering costs associated with providing assistance to the drainage superintendent are not eligible for the superintendent grant.
- Any time and expense incurred by a drainage superintendent in establishing, maintaining and managing irrigation systems.
- Any time and expense incurred by a drainage superintendent in performing the "Tile Inspector" duties under the Tile Drainage Act.
- Where the engineering firm appointed by a municipality to perform a drain construction or improvement project also serves as the drainage superintendent for that municipality, the cost of the superintendent's involvement in this construction or improvement project is not eligible for grant.
- Drainage superintendents shall annually submit time sheets or logs that provide justification for the grant being claimed.
- Grants for the cost of employing a drainage superintendent cannot be claimed for individuals who have not been approved by the ministry as drainage superintendent.
- The salary of a drainage superintendent claimed for grant must only be related to the time spent by the approved superintendent performing eligible duties of the superintendent. The time spent by the superintendent performing non-superintendent duties (Section 4.1(b) above) is not eligible for grant. Drainage superintendents shall submit time sheets or logs on request to support the grant claim. All time sheets or logs will be audited by the ministry at least once every five years.
- The drainage superintendent salary claimed by municipal employees must not include embedded expenses. Consulting firms providing drainage superintendent services to a municipality must also clearly separate their hourly billing rates from any expenses.
- For drainage superintendents who are municipal employees, eligible expenses will be calculated based on 18 per cent of the salary of the drainage superintendent as indicated in 4.2(b). There are no stipulations on how this expense funding may be used. Eligible expenses incurred by consulting firms providing drainage superintendent services are limited to actual expenses to a maximum of 18 per cent of the billable time.
- The actual employee benefits cost is eligible for grant, to a maximum of 35 per cent of the salary cost of the drainage superintendent claimed by the municipality. Municipalities using consulting drainage superintendents may not claim a grant on benefit costs.
4.4 Applying for the grant for the cost of employing a drainage superintendent
Grant applications for the cost of employing a drainage superintendent must be submitted on the form provided by the ministry by January 31 of each year. A copy of the drainage superintendent's records of the time spent performing the duties of the drainage superintendent must be provided to the ministry annually to support the grant claim.
The Director or the Director's designate may provide clarification, interpretation or exception on these policies.
1 The engineer should discuss the details of the situation with OMAFRA staff and must obtain a grant eligibility determination prior to proceeding with the project.
Appendix A — duties of the drainage superintendent
The following is a list of duties that a superintendent may be requested to perform. Although not all superintendents will be required to perform all of these duties, most will be required to perform many of these tasks.
- To initiate and supervise the maintenance and repair of any drainage works in accordance with the current bylaw.
- To assist in the construction or improvement of any drainage works.
- To report to council and to keep council informed on drainage matters.
- To inspect and report to council on a regular basis the condition of all drainage works in the municipality.
- As directed by council, remove any minor obstruction from any drainage works from time to time in accordance with Section 81 of the Drainage Act. Costs are charged to the drain.
- Advise landowners of approaches that they might take to solve their drainage problems.
- Aid a person in drawing up a petition but should not circulate the petition.
- Advise council on matters dealing with petitions being received.
- Attend on-site meetings held by the engineer to provide assistance to all parties.
- Review and comment on engineering reports received by council; attend meeting to consider report to advise council and affected ratepayers at the time of consideration of the report.
- Provide comment to the Court of Revision, as required.
- Advise the council and landowners of the procedures and appeal rights under the act.
- Call tenders for work and advise council on tenders.
- Testify before the Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal, as required.
- Act as liaison between council, engineer, contractor and landowner during drain construction.
- Visit site during drain construction, report progress to council and check compliance with specifications.
- Attend final inspection of drain construction, as required.
- Inspect new drains for deficiencies and advise landowners of appeal rights on quality of construction prior to the end of the one-year period (Section 64), as required.
- Investigate drainage concerns from landowners.
- Investigate and report to council where council is notified that a drain is out of repair or has been placed on notice under Section 79.
- Prepare a maintenance budget and drainage superintendent's budget for submission to the ministry.
- Keep an accurate log of all activities.
- Verify application for maintenance grant and drainage superintendent's employment grant.
- Familiarize oneself with the drainage works within the municipality.
- Be aware of special assistance programs for landowners and municipalities relating to soil and water management.
- Be aware of ministry requirements affecting the drainage superintendent work.
- Be aware of the best methods of repairing and maintaining drainage works in accordance with the act and good construction practice.
- Be prepared to comment on drainage matters relating to severances and subdivision.
- Actively participate in the Drainage Superintendent's Association of Ontario.