Flooding? Who do you call?

March 20, 2019

Buchanan Road near 96th Avenue.
– Oceana County Road Commission photo.

Flooding? Who do you call?

By Michelle Martin, Oceana County Drain Commissioner.

HART – Last week, many residents were faced with a lot of water – a lot of water very quickly. The most common phrase heard during the reports of flooding was, “We have never had water like this before.”

The spring melt this year was unique, in the fact that we received significant rainfall together with rapid snow melt on frozen ground. This situation produced runoff in an amount which far exceeded what we normally see.

The Oceana County Drain Commissioner is responsible for the construction, operation and maintenance of county drains. These systems are designed to provide stormwater management, drainage and flood prevention. But what if you don’t live on or near a county drain? What is the difference between a county drain and a roadside ditch? Who is responsible for cleaning out my driveway culvert? Who do I call to report flooding issues when I am not in a flood plain?

You may or may not know if you live within a county drain district. If you do live within a district, cleaning and maintenance of that drain is paid for by the landowners that benefit from that drain through special assessments. Some roadside ditches are county drains, but most are not. So the answer to that question is not always clear. County drains are designed to drain large areas of land. Road ditches, in general, are designed to drain runoff generated within the road right-of-way.

During flooding situations, the Oceana County Road Commission responds to various sites throughout the county where water is over the road and washouts have happened. Public safety is the primary concern and requires the road commission’s full attention. Several roads were closed throughout the county, and a few still remain closed. Erosion cleanup and road rebuilding is now underway.

Permits for driveway culverts are obtained through the road commission. However, the maintenance of those culverts is the responsibility of the landowner. Periodically throughout the year, it is a good idea to check for any obstructions that may inhibit flow and cause backups.

It is unfortunate and troublesome whenever a storm event causes damage. Any flooding to dwelling structures should be reported to the Oceana County Emergency Management Coordinator James Duram at 231-873-4473. Please provide name, address and phone number. Flooding to yards and outbuildings should not be reported. An online reporting system will be available on the county website in the near future.

The American Red Cross has disaster cleanup information on its website at https://www.redcross.org/get-help/disaster-relief-and-recovery-services/disaster-cleanup.html and may be able to provide buckets with supplies for cleanup.

If you have flooding issues caused by a county drain, we will investigate. If flooding is not associated with a designated county drain, the drain commissioner does not have the authority to respond. You can visit our website at oceana.mi.us/government/departments/drain-office/ for a county drain map and other pertinent information.