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Commonwealth's Counties

Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Natural Resources Release Interim Report on Orphan Drainage Outfalls Following VACo Budget Amendments

Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew Strickler recently released the interim report on orphan drainage outfalls. This is most often an issue when eroding stormwater outfalls associated with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) subdivision streets cause issues for private property owners. Specifically, in certain older subdivisions generic drainage easements (not assigned to any party) that extend beyond the VDOT right-of-way are not being claimed and maintained by VDOT. These are known colloquially as “orphaned outfalls” as there is no assigned entity to maintain them. Years of neglect and lack of maintenance have led to severe erosion problems for some private property owners directly impacted by these drainage systems.  This issue was first raised to VACo’s Transportation Steering Committee by Isle of Wight County, but is likely a problem in other counties. As most counties do not own, operate, or maintain public drainage systems, they cannot take responsibility for outfalls on private land without risk of being subject to a perpetual and potentially expensive MS4 permit.

The interim report provides a brief overview of the issue and outline of the workplan to be followed for the remainder of the 2021 calendar year. This will include an evaluation of inadequate drainage outfalls, a summary of how each locality addresses drainage easements for projects not constructed by VDOT, a review of the legal structures at the state and local level governing this issue, and an investigation and evaluation of funding approaches to maintain drainage outfalls – orphaned or otherwise.

The report was authorized following the adoption of budget amendment language from the 2020 session introduced by Senator Lucas and Delegates Tyler and Brewer at the request of VACo, which is grateful for their continued attention and work on this issue. The final report will be submitted to the Chairs of the House Appropriations, Senate Finance and Appropriations, House Transportation, Senate Transportation, House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources, and Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committees by September 2021. However, the interim report notes that the magnitude and complexity of the work may require additional time and an extension by the 2022 General Assembly if appropriate.

The full text of the interim report may be viewed here.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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