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Drainage Assistance

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The Stormwater Management Division maintains stormwater drains in public rights-of-way.  Property owners are responsible for maintaining stormwater drains and structures on private property.   In some instances, shared responsibility exists and a project can be evaluated for the Drainage Assistance Program.  Regardless of the situation, stormwater engineers will visit with property owners to evaluate problems and share technical advice.

What is the Drainage Assistance Program?
Property owners with drainage problems may receive cost-sharing opportunities and assistance from the Town including  technical advice, engineering design, maps, reports, construction services and project inspection depending on the cause of the drainage problem and the scope of the work.  Drainage problems involving both public and private property are typically handled cooperatively by the Town and the property owner through the Drainage Assistance Program.

How do I sign up for the Drainage Assistance Program?
Call the Stormwater Management Office at 919-969-7246 or email us at to describe your drainage problem. Stormwater staff will schedule a time to meet with you onsite to evaluate your situation.

How does the Town decide which drainage assistance projects to undertake?
Each project is prioritized according to a ranking form developed for this program. The projects that score the highest get first priority, based on available funds.

My neighbor's stormwater runoff  floods my yard! Can you intervene for us?
Drainage problems stemming from private property and/or associated with a dispute between two private property owners must be resolved by the property owner(s). If the problem involves a stormwater management facility or feature that was required by Town permit, the responsible party (e.g. homeowners' association) needs to undertake whatever measures necessary to correct the problem.

In private disputes the Town can provide technical assistance and/or information on upstream contributing areas, flow paths of streams and storm sewer lines, soils, topography, and other hydrologic information associated with the problem.  Private consulting engineers and contractors can analyze situations and suggest solutions such as waterproofing, drains, ditches, and other methods. Most significant drainage improvements would require a Town development permit obtained through the Planning Department.

If regulatory compliance is involved, the Town may issue a notice of violation requiring that mitigation measures be taken by the responsible party or fines will be levied. Where stormwater is flowing from construction sites onto private property, the Town will investigate to ensure that the construction activity is in compliance with the development permit and associated regulations.

Nearby stream levels are higher than ever after a rainfall. Can the Town dredge or clear them out so they'll drain faster?
The Stormwater drainage crew periodically inspects and, if necessary, cleans debris blockages out of accessible segments of Little, Bolin, Booker and Morgan Creeks.  Any dredging or channel work requires a host of expensive and time-consuming permits, both State and Federal, and does not always reduce flooding.  DO NOT ATTEMPTY TO DREDGE OR RESHAPE A CREEK BY YOURSELF ! IT IS AGAINST THE LAW without approved plans and permits. 

Note: As the amount of impervious surface area increases due to development in local watersheds, streams may flow at increasingly higher levels following storm events, and they may flow less during the dry season. The stormwater management provisions and requirements in the Town's Land Use Management Ordinance are intended to mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff resulting from new development and/or re-development.

Can I fill in a ditch, or pipe a small stream?
Your "ditch" may in fact be either an ephemeral or an intermittent stream.  It is against North Carolina law to fill these in or to impede the existing conveyance of water. You may be able to divert, re-direct or modify conveyances subject to stipulations included with a Town development permit, which you may request through the Planning Department

What will the Town do if stormwater is ponding on a road or if a nearby culvert is clogged? What if the stormwater from public streets or right-of-ways are contributing to a drainage problem on my property?
Ponding on public streets and other drainage problems limited to public property and public right-of-ways (where many culverts are located) will be investigated and remedied by the Town or the NC Department of Transportation, depending on if it is a state road.  Please contact us to report such drainage problems.

Who maintains stormwater management features and facilities?
Stormwater management features/facilities (i.e., level spreaders, detention ponds, bioretention cells) that are not located within dedicated and accepted public easements are not owned and operated by the Town, and must be privately maintained. Stormwater management features/facilities located on public land and/or within dedicated and accepted public easements are maintained by the public body (e.g. the Town or State) with ownership and jurisdiction.

What is a drainage easement?
It is a legally established and defined area, on private or public property, that is reserved for the conveyance, containment or passage of surface or sub-surface drainage flows. You can find evidence of easements on recorded plats.

What is a Reserved Storm Drainageway Easement?
It is a specific drainage easement (see above) required on development and re-development projects within the Town's Planning Jurisdiction. These easements are typically private unless they are specifically dedicated to and accepted by the Town. See the drainageway easement guidelines document for more information.

Can the Town assist me with a problem concerning a stormwater drainage easement next to my property?
If the drainage easement is public (see above) the Town will provide assistance. If the drainage easement is private (see above) the problem is between two private property owners. You can determine whether an easement is public or private by getting the property deed or plat from Orange County Land Records/GIS Maps. A drainage easement is not public unless it has been accepted by a public entity, such as the Town. This legal status must be verified by deed and recorded plat language. Most drainage easements in Chapel Hill are private. New development must include Reserved Storm Drainageway Easements per Town guidelines.

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