Rural municipalities are responsible for controlling drainage, and a few years ago the RM of Dufferin realized that needed to include tile drains. Former reeve, Shawn McCutcheon saw tiling becoming more widely adopted, and could see need for a made-in-Dufferin approach to managing it, said current reeve, George Gray.
“We knew it was going to take on a life of its own. He did research in Ontario and the U.S. and in the absence of a provincial plan we knew we had to do something.”
Gray spoke at the Manitoba Planning Conference earlier this spring about why Dufferin adopted its own tile drainage bylaw and described its effect on the municipality.
Theirs is a relative rarity, despite the fast-paced adoption of tile on agricultural land throughout the rest of Manitoba.
Gray said a webinar hosted by the Red River Basin Commission (RRBC) this past February revealed that perhaps about 15 per cent of municipalities actually have something in place to manage tile drains. Those that have them have a longer history of installations, and they differ in scope and specific details.
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The RM of Dufferin’s bylaw is comprehensive and lays out a clear set of rules and regulations.
Gray said it was not developed to put up hurdles to tiling agricultural land — quite the contrary.
“There are a number of misconceptions of tile drainage which initiate concerns around allowing tile to be installed,” he said. “But tile is one of the best tools farmers have at their disposal and it has a very positive future in agriculture.”
But it also needs to be carefully managed, he stressed. “Like all things in life, good policy and good management are the tools to success.”
Written plan needed
Some of the specifics of Dufferin’s policy include the requirement that anyone wanting to tile land must first provide a written proposal to the RM, citing where they plan to drain, be it municipal or provincial drains. Site inspections are done and agreements signed that state ditches will not be deepened nor altered, nor pipes liable to collapse installed beneath municipal roadways.
Licensees sign minor works agreements with the RM, rendering the landowner responsible for all ditch work in consultation with the RM. The bylaw also lays out guidelines for tile installation specifications.
This summer Dufferin has had as many as a dozen new applications to review.
Ultimately, what they’re trying to do is keep ahead of this while balancing the needs of farmers with those downstream landowners. The RM has obligations to all ratepayers, Gray said.
“We want to make sure the licensees know where the water is going and that there are other ratepayers in the RM involved,” he said.
Gray told municipal leaders not to be afraid to formulate policies of their own.
“Anything that’s unknown is fearful and any time you fear something you don’t want to deal with it,” he said.
“We’re only too willing to share this with (other municipalities) to help them along.”
The RRBC is now guiding development of a tile drainage bylaw template that will be based on the RM of Dufferin’s. The province’s Tile Drainage Interdepartmental Working Group will be one of several stakeholder groups providing input.
The group was formed last August and was put together because municipalities in Manitoba are looking for information about tile drainage and its regulation, said the group’s chair Sheri Grift, a land use specialist with Manitoba Agriculture.
The working group currently has eight members representing the provincial departments of Sustainable Development, Manitoba Agriculture and Indigenous and Municipal Relations.
Its job is to co-ordinate provincial tile drainage initiatives, as well as knowledge across departments and assemble and communicate technical information, Grift said.