Maintaining Roadside Ditches and Driveway Culverts

property vs public works responsibility
Copy of Keep our Bar Ditches and Culverts clean Page 1
Copy of Keep our Bar Ditches and Culverts clean page 2

Preventing Drainage issues on your property:

  • Prevent litter and debris from entering easements and roadside ditches, and culverts.
  • Avoid raking, blowing, or dumping leaves or grass clipping in the roadside ditches and culverts.
  • Keep roadside ditches and culverts easily accessible during property repairs.
  • Do not obstruct roadside ditches and culverts or pathways with privacy fencing.
  • Move structures and sheds away from roadside ditches and culverts and easements.
  • Note any erosion and remove foreign objects from around any stormwater ponds monthly. Have a professional engineer inspect your stormwater pond every one to two years
  • Consider converting turf grass around your pond to a native plant buffer zone. Work with a landscape contractor to incorporate native plants to stabilize shorelines. 
  • Do not apply fertilizers and pesticides around your stormwater pond. 

If you choose to hire a professional to perform maintenance and/or repairs on your culvert, it is your responsibility to ensure that they obtain the proper permits/permissions for the work and follow all required procedures.  

All ditches and culverts must meet certain specifications. Please contact the Development Department at before you make any changes to ditches or culverts to ensure the changes meet all requirements and regulations. 

How often should maintenance be performed?

Properties with roadside swales often have driveway culverts, pipes that convey stormwater under the driveway apron within the right of way to convey runoff. Maintenance of these pipes and adjacent areas is generally the property owner's responsibility. 

It is recommended that the homeowners inspect and clean their driveway culverts regularly e.g., quarterly. It is advisable to check your pipe before big storms and when you witness standing water in the swale or the pipe is 20% of sediment or more full. 

If your culvert also carries a stream or creek, please contact the Stormwater division for additional assistance to ensure that maintenance is carried out properly. Waterways are protected under federal law. 

Who is responsible for culvert and/or bar ditch maintenance in Shady Shores?

When determining who should handle the driveway culvert and/or bar ditch maintenance, the key is knowing who owns and is responsible for the land on which the culvert/bar ditch is located as is laid out in the town or county's policies. 

Possible Owners: 

Homeowner/Property Owner

Town of Shady Shores: in some instances, the Town has been given the right of way through the transfer of ownership

County: Denton County 

Developer: a company that purchases a segment of land for the purpose of dividing it into smaller pieces for Sale or independent development

Homeowner's Association: private association run by homeowners in a subdivision

USACE: United States Army Corp of Engineers, much of the open land that surrounds the Town of Shady Shores is owned by USACE. While public land, USACE controls what maintenance can and cannot be performed

Definitions and Common Terms: 

Drainage Easement: a legal right to use a specific piece of land for water control purposes; homeowners should know where the drainage easement is and who is responsible for it. (private easements are generally created by developers and are maintained by homeowners' associations in planned developments; public easements fall under the jurisdiction of the Town of Shady Shores)  

Subdivision: a parcel of land divided into lots by a developer that can be developed independently of each other.

Roadway Culvert: pipe placed under a roadway to carry drainage or a stream. If the road is public, the responsibility is with the Town of Shady Shores Public Works. If the road is private, then the culvert is the responsibility of the land owner. 

Driveway Culvert: pipe placed under a driveway to carry roadside ditch drainage. The culvert is installed parallel to the route of travel on the roadway to allow for vehicular access to and from adjacent property.

Bar Ditch: a roadside channel dug for drainage purposes. The term “bar” comes from the typical practice that during construction of the original roadway the dirt is "borrowed" from the ditch, and used to crown the road.

Why is it important to maintain my culvert and/or bar ditch?

For streets without curb and gutter, roadside ditches are key to maintaining roadway drainage, which is important to ensuring the long life of the roadway by:

  • Preventing erosion of the roadway.
  • Preventing saturation of the subbase.
  • Preventing damage to roadway structure

Roadside ditches should be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent them from silting up and forcing water back onto the travel way surface or into the subbase material of the pavement structure.

For streets without curb and gutter, roadside ditches are key to maintaining roadway drainage, which is also important to ensuring safety of roadway users.

In sections of the travel way where run-off drains directly onto the shoulders, water may collect along the edge of the travel way. Water on a portion of roadway can result in drivers losing control of their motor vehicle, particularly when braking in an emergency. This can happen when the inside tires are in contact with roadway surface while the braking ability of the outside tires is hindered by the water.

Water can pond on the outside edge of the travel way surface when debris, particularly aggregate and soil on turf shoulders, builds up. As debris accumulates on the shoulder, it raises the level of the edge, and eventually hinders run-off from flowing into side ditches. Edge drop-offs and shoulder scour are often caused when water is trapped at the pavement edge by the build-up of debris and vegetation growth.

Maintaining culverts and roadside ditches is important to ensure water does not pond along the ditch or in the culverts, which are conditions that are prime for mosquito breeding. In addition, in ditches and culverts where obstructions exist due to excessive siltation or debris, the conveyance capacity of the ditch is hindered, which can lead to upstream flooding of adjacent properties and potential overtopping of the roadway.

See Subdivision Ordinance, Section 5.6 Drainage Requirements and Design Standards, D. Specific Design Criteria , 9. Culverts for additional information.

Ensure steps protect streams and drainage pathways from sediment and damage.

811 Utility Locates

Permits- Planning and Zoning

Town of Shady Shores 

Public Works Department

If you require technical advice or have questions about maintaining your driveway or culvert, please contact the Town of Shady Shores Public Works

Request a Culvert / Bar Ditch Assessment Here