Press Release: Ditch Maintenance

By  | 

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.