Drainage problems for rural landowners and farmers come in many forms. The information below outlines possible drainage issue sources.
Coming Soon - a Decision Support Tool to help guide farmers and rural landowners to the person or organization best suited to help with their specific drainage issue.
- Emergencies and Natural Disasters
- Environmental Factors (Beavers and Vegetation)
- Land Use & Management
- Ditch and Culvert Conditions
- Soil Conditions
If your property experiences an emergency that threatens crops, livestock, or farm structures, there are emergency procedures you can follow.
Pierce County Code allows Emergency Actions to be implemented if there is a threat to private property or of serious environmental degradation if:
- The threat is imminent (will occur before there is time to obtain necessary permits) and
- The landowner completes applicable County reviews after the fact (and may be forced to remove repair work and mitigate any impacts).
Landowners are encouraged to contact County staff prior to taking any action to evaluate the emergency and proposed actions (18E.20.035-F).
Some of the most common causes of poor drainage or standing waters are the impacts of environmental factors such as beavers and excessive vegetation. If you are observing slow drainage along a known ditch or stream, but you don’t see any signs of beaver activity or excessive vegetation, the issue could be downstream from your site. Attempt to contact neighboring property owners and alert them of your drainage concerns.
Beavers – If beaver dams are restricting flow, contact the
WA Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Coastal Region Office at 360-249-4628. Dam removal requires a Hydraulic Project Approval. There may be options to reduce impacts of beaver dams using pond levelers and culvert fencing. Visit www.beaversnw.org for more information. Beaver relocation may also be an option in some situations.
Vegetation – Invasive and noxious weeds thrive in and along drainage channels. Problem species such as reed canarygrass (pictured) can outcompete native plants, create dense stands and lead to siltation in streams and ditches. Removing vegetation below the ordinary high-water line (OHWL) in fish-bearing streams requires an HPA from WDFW and must occur in the assigned fish-window for that stream. Drainage ditches and fish-bearing streams have different regulations for removing vegetation, and permits may be required in some instances. Contact Pierce County staff or your local WDFW office for additional information.
Changes in land use or management can lead to drainage problems. If farm practices have been altered in recent years, soil conditions may have changed. This may include a change from pasture to cropland (or vice versa), introducing a new tillage practice, changing equipment or tractors, or intensifying livestock grazing. There are resources available to farms and landowners to help identify and alleviate these problems, including from WSU-Extension, Pierce Conservation District and local USDA-NRCS staff.
Practices that can negatively affect drainage:
- Repetitive tillage using the same implement
- Not working fields along contours
- Working in fields when soil moisture is high
- Over-inflated tires on tractors and implements
- Not using designated field roads/paths
- Low organic matter content
- Poorly maintained or improperly designed drainage features and infrastructure
- Lack of crop rotations
- Changing feeding locations for livestock
Soil management to reduce compaction:
- Subsoiling in early fall and in spring, if possible
- Vary tillage equipment usage by depth and action
- Inflate tires to lowest possible rating for safe use
- Consider cover crops and/or composting/manure options
- Crop rotations, including fallow cycles
- Get your soil tested in problem areas (physical properties – NOT fertility)
- Work in fields before rain events or irrigation rounds when possible
- Repeated use of areas already compacted by equipment or animals
- Re-seed/over-seed pasture to maintain stand health (reduces overgrazing)
- Avoid over-irrigating fields
Over time, infrastructure like ditches and streams that convey run-off can be altered by the moving water in them. To determine if this is the cause of your drainage issue:
- Inspect ditches for proper shape and gradient to convey runoff
- Inspect culverts for damage
If you see sediment or debris, please complete the Request for Action form, providing as much detail as possible.
The soils present on any given parcel are mapped by the USDA-NRCS (Pierce County Soil Survey). Soil maps should be used to better understand your site and how its soil properties might influence drainage. Soil maps are not 100% accurate and cannot account for every small inclusion of soils that do not behave as the primary mapped soil in an area. Soil qualities change as you go deeper in the profile, and sometimes there are subsoil layers that can reduce infiltration and limit root growth.