The St. Joseph River Basin Commission is working with local drainage authorities to test a new method for apportioning costs associated with drain maintenance. This method improves fairness by analyzing land cover and hydric soil data in a Geographic Information System (GIS) to estimate the portion of benefit each parcel receives from the drain. Information about individual land management practices can also be incorporated to create an even greater incentive for conservation.
The final apportionment includes a base allocation to cover benefits received uniformly by all landowners (e.g. administrative, public health, transportation, etc.) and a variable benefit allocation that fluctuates according to parcel size and physical characteristics.
By accounting for differences in land use and soil drainage, costs can be allocated more directly to landowners who receive the greatest benefit from drainage improvement projects. In doing so, a financial incentive is created for conservation and less intensive land use.
The SJRBC recently analyzed four regulated drain watersheds in LaGrange County at the request of drain officials. Two of the watersheds included significant natural areas and large wetland complexes. Landowners in these areas had concerns with the proposed drainage project and the analysis was helpful for understanding individual benefits received.