Chapter 551 — Diking Districts

 

2021 EDITION

 

 

DIKING DISTRICTS

 

WATER LAWS

 

551.010     Use of “lands” in chapter; railroads subject to taxation; duties of surveyor and engineer

 

551.020     Petition for formation of diking district; bond

 

551.030     Publication of petition; order to show cause; viewers to investigate proposed works

 

551.040     Duties of surveyors and viewers

 

551.050     Hearing; postponement; decision of court

 

551.060     Apportionment of cost of dikes and dams

 

551.070     Advertisement for bids; contracts; bond; personal subscriptions; modification of plan

 

551.080     Application for payment of assessments in installments

 

551.090     Meetings of landowners; procedure; selection of advisory board and superintendent

 

551.100     Superintendent; compensation; powers and duties; estimate of maintenance costs as basis for annual tax levy

 

551.110     Deposit of district funds; payment of claims

 

551.120     Damages; recovery by landowner

 

551.130     Organization of repair and maintenance district for land already diked; levy in proportion to benefits; credit for original cost

 

551.140     Realignment of dikes by landowner

 

551.150     Vacation of right of way; reversion to original owner

 

551.160     County authority as to dikes and dams

 

551.170     Appeals from county court

 

551.180     Dissolution conditions and procedure

 

      551.010 Use of “lands” in chapter; railroads subject to taxation; duties of surveyor and engineer. (1) When the term “lands” is used in this chapter in reference to taxation, it shall not be held to include improvements thereon; but the roadbed of railway lines within diking districts shall be subject to taxation for diking purposes.

      (2) For purposes of this chapter, duties prescribed for the county surveyor may also be performed by the county engineer if the county employs a registered professional engineer. [Amended by 1965 c.286 §1]

 

      551.020 Petition for formation of diking district; bond. One-half or more of the owners of lands which may be conveniently embraced in one diking district and which are subject to overflow by tidewaters or freshets, and who represent one-half or more of the area of the lands embraced within the proposed diking district, may present a petition to the county court of the county in which the lands are situated, reciting therein that it is desired to form a diking district for the purpose of improving by diking or damming the lands contained therein, which are subject to overflow by tidewater or by freshets, as the case may be, and further giving by legal subdivisions, or by metes and bounds, the description of such lands as are desired to be included in the district, and stating that the petitioners are the owners of one-half or more of the acreage to be embraced in the district. If, upon consideration of the petition, the county court finds the statements therein are substantially correct, the court shall require the petitioners to give a bond sufficient to cover the preliminary expenses of the proceedings.

 

      551.030 Publication of petition; order to show cause; viewers to investigate proposed works. (1) The county court or board of county commissioners shall then have the petition published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the district is headquartered once each week for four consecutive weeks, together with an order citing all interested parties to appear before the court on a given date, after the time of publication of the notice has expired, and show cause why the petition should not be granted.

      (2) The court shall appoint three disinterested viewers, nonresidents of the proposed district, together with the county surveyor, to view out the proposed dikes and dams, along the most practical route to accomplish the object desired, at the least possible cost and expense. [Amended by 1989 c.182 §44]

 

      551.040 Duties of surveyors and viewers. The routine of procedure under this chapter shall be as far as practicable the same as prescribed by the road law of the state for survey, location and establishment of county roads. The surveyors and viewers appointed shall meet as prescribed by the county court. They shall trace upon the ground the line of the dikes and dams necessary, and shall keep an accurate record of the magnetic bearings and the distances upon the same. They shall designate the width of the right of way through which the dikes and dams shall pass, which right of way, if the petition is granted, shall be the property of the district in so far as is necessary for the purpose of building and maintaining the works. The surveyors and viewers shall also define the boundaries of the district, and make an accurate list, by legal subdivision, of the lands embraced therein, and the names of the owners thereof. They shall further make plans for, and estimate the cost of, the proposed dikes and dams, and shall file with the county clerk, at least one week before the day set for a hearing, a complete report of their works. Their report shall be open to public inspection.

 

      551.050 Hearing; postponement; decision of court. At the time advertised for the hearing of interested parties, the court may postpone the hearing as may be necessary in order to allow the viewers more time in which to report, or for other good cause. If, upon the final hearing, the county court, from the report of the viewers and the testimony of interested persons, believes that the benefits to be derived from forming a diking district are not sufficiently great to justify the expenditure which will be incurred, the petition and report shall be dismissed at the cost of the petitioners. If the court believes that the proposed improvement will be for the general public good, and that the increase in the taxable value of the land will be greater than the cost, or that destruction of or damage to property equal to the cost will be prevented, the petition shall be granted and the district formed, a number given by which it shall be designated in future proceedings, the report of the viewers adopted and incorporated in the court records, and the cost of the preliminary work assessed upon the district.

 

      551.060 Apportionment of cost of dikes and dams. After the petition has been granted and the proceedings had as specified in ORS 551.050, the court shall apportion the estimated cost of the dikes and dams among the landowners of the proposed district, in proportion to the valuation of the lands therein, according to the estimated value placed upon the respective tracts by the viewers. The cost thus apportioned shall be a tax upon the land and shall be placed upon the assessment roll of the county for the current year. Such taxes for diking purposes shall have the same legal effect and be collected in a like manner as other state and county taxes upon the assessment roll. [Amended by 2001 c.497 §1]

 

      551.070 Advertisement for bids; contracts; bond; personal subscriptions; modification of plan. When the tax has been collected or the application filed as provided in ORS 551.080, the county court shall advertise for bids on the proposed work, either as a whole or in parts, as may be deemed most economical. The advertisement for bids shall be published in the official county paper once each week for two successive weeks previous to letting the contracts. The contracts shall be drawn in such terms as will insure the district against loss, and a bond required of the contractor such as will insure the completion of the work in case of failure to comply with the agreement. No contract shall be awarded which calls for an expenditure of a sum of money greater than the tax levied for the purpose; provided, that the difference may be made up by personal subscriptions; and provided also, the court may modify the plan so as to bring the cost of work within the tax levy, if such modification can be made without material detriment to the improvements.

 

      551.080 Application for payment of assessments in installments. After the assessments have been made, the owner of any property assessed for such improvement in a sum not less than $50 may, at any time within 10 days after the cost of such diking district has been apportioned, file with the clerk of the county court a written application to pay the assessment in installments. The application shall state that the applicant waives all irregularities or defects, jurisdictional or otherwise, in the proceedings to create the diking district, and in the assessment and apportionment of costs. The application shall contain a provision that the applicant agrees to pay the assessment in five annual installments with interest at the rate of six percent per annum. But no such application shall be received and accepted where the assessment exceeds the assessed valuation of the property on the tax roll of the county. The installments shall be paid annually from the time of the apportionment of the costs. In case of default in the payment of any installment for 20 days after it becomes payable, the whole of the remaining unpaid sum shall be collected as a tax against the property assessed for the same.

 

      551.090 Meetings of landowners; procedure; selection of advisory board and superintendent. (1) Within 10 days after the petition has been granted, the petitioners shall call a meeting of the landowners of the district, to be held in the district at a time and place by them designated, for the purpose of choosing three landowners as an advisory board and nominating one landowner for superintendent of the district. Notice of the meeting shall be signed by at least three of the petitioners and posted in three public places in the district five days before the date of the meeting.

      (2) At the meeting and at all subsequent district meetings one-half of the landowners in the district being the record owners of at least one-half of the number of acres of land therein shall constitute a quorum competent to transact business, and each landowner present shall be entitled to one vote for each acre of land in the district of which the landowner is at the time the record owner. All meetings shall be organized by selecting a chairperson and secretary. The secretary shall certify all proceedings taken and file the same with the county court of the county within five days after any meeting.

      (3) The advisory board shall assist the superintendent with its advice and counsel concerning the necessity of work and the manner thereof and in the repair and maintenance of the dikes and dams in the district. The members of the advisory board shall hold office until the next annual meeting and until their successors are elected and qualified.

      (4) There shall be an annual meeting of the landowners of the district on the first Monday in November of each year at 11 a.m., at which time, or at an adjourned meeting thereof, three landowners of the district shall be chosen for the advisory board, and a superintendent shall be nominated for the next calendar year, whose selection shall be certified to the county court on or before January 1 each year. The county court shall appoint for superintendent of dikes in each district the person so nominated by the landowners. Should the district fail to file with the county court a certificate of the nomination of a superintendent, then the county court shall make its own selection from the landowners in the district and appoint the superintendent. In either case the superintendent shall serve until the next annual appointment and until a successor is appointed, subject to removal by the court for neglect of duty, incapacity or other good cause. In case of vacancy in the superintendent’s office the county court may, on consultation with the advisory board, fill the vacancy until the next annual selection.

 

      551.100 Superintendent; compensation; powers and duties; estimate of maintenance costs as basis for annual tax levy. (1) The superintendent:

      (a) Shall receive such pay for services as the court may allow, but shall be paid only for the time actually employed, and in no case shall the rate of pay exceed that allowed by the county surveyor.

      (b) Shall oversee the construction and repair of dikes and dams.

      (c) Shall see that all contracts are faithfully executed, and the work done in a thorough manner.

      (d) After the dikes are completed, may employ the labor necessary to maintain them at the usual rate of wages allowed to laborers on the county road; provided, that in an emergency the county court may allow a higher rate of wages; and provided, further, that the county court may, with the approval of the advisory board, allow work on maintenance to be done by contract.

      (2) The superintendent shall also, not less than 15 nor more than 30 days prior to the beginning of each fiscal year, file with the county court an estimate of the money required for the maintenance of the dikes and dams for the succeeding year. Such estimates added to any indebtedness there may be against the district shall be the basis of the tax for next year. The advisory board also shall file with the county court, on or before the 15th day preceding the beginning of each fiscal year, an estimate of the money required for the maintenance of the dikes and dams for the next succeeding year with a statement of the work in its opinion, required to be done, which estimates the court may consider in making its levy.

 

      551.110 Deposit of district funds; payment of claims. Moneys of a district may be deposited in accordance with ORS 295.001 to 295.108 and as designated by the superintendent of the district in consultation with the advisory board. Moneys deposited may be withdrawn or paid out only upon a proper order and warrant or upon a check signed by the superintendent. The order shall:

      (1) Specify the name of the person to whom the moneys are to be paid;

      (2) Specify the fund from which the moneys are to be paid;

      (3) State generally the purpose for which the moneys are to be paid; and

      (4) Be entered in the record of proceedings of landowner meetings. [Amended by 2001 c.497 §2; 2019 c.587 §45]

 

      551.120 Damages; recovery by landowner. If, in locating and establishing the dikes and dams provided for in this chapter, an owner of land through which they pass is aggrieved on the score of right of way or other causes, the owner shall have proper damage. In such cases claims for damages shall be filed and the amount thereof determined in accordance with the general road law in like cases. The damages allowed shall be assessed against the lands of the district in the same manner as the tax for construction, and paid to the aggrieved parties in the same manner in which other claims are paid.

 

      551.130 Organization of repair and maintenance district for land already diked; levy in proportion to benefits; credit for original cost. Owners of land already diked may organize districts for the repair and maintenance of the dikes and dams thereof by complying with the procedure prescribed in this chapter, except that the petition need not be signed by more persons than the owners of more than one-half of the acreage embraced in the limits of the proposed district. The board of viewers shall provide for placing the dikes and dams in thorough repair and up to a uniform standard, and shall levy the cost of such repairs in the first instance, not upon the assessed valuation of the lands, but in proportion to the benefits conferred. The value of the dikes and dams as they stand shall be estimated and due credit given to the lands which have borne the original cost of construction; provided, such credit shall entitle the land to no consideration greater than release from the cost of repairs in the first instance.

 

      551.140 Realignment of dikes by landowner. Any person through whose lands a dike has been constructed under this chapter may be allowed to construct a dike upon new lines between any two points on the original line. In such case the owner shall file application with the county court, giving a plat of the proposed change, and indorsed by the superintendent of the district. If the court is satisfied that the change is not detrimental to the district, the application shall be granted. The applicant shall construct the new dike at the expense of the applicant, and up to the standard of the original, of which fact the superintendent shall be the judge. The dike thus constructed shall become the property of the district in the same manner as the original, and subject to the same regulation, and the right of way of the original dike shall thereupon become vacated.

 

      551.150 Vacation of right of way; reversion to original owner. The county court may vacate the right of way through which the dikes and dams pass, in the same manner in which county roads are vacated, and the right of way shall thereupon revert to the original owner.

 

      551.160 County authority as to dikes and dams. The governing body of any county shall have the powers provided for it in this chapter to regulate the building and maintenance of dikes and dams for the purpose of reclaiming and improving submersible lands as defined in ORS 274.005, or lands subject to overflow by freshets, and for the purpose of protecting lands from overflow where great damage is liable to be caused thereby. [Amended by 1969 c.594 §60]

 

      551.170 Appeals from county court. Appeals may be taken from the action of the county court in carrying out the provisions of this chapter in like manner as appeals are provided for under the road law. Any judgment resulting therefrom shall be an expense upon the district, and not upon the county, and shall be provided for in the tax levy upon the district.

 

      551.180 Dissolution conditions and procedure. (1) A diking district may be dissolved in accordance with ORS 198.920 to 198.955 if:

      (a) Either an existing drainage district formed under ORS chapter 547 or an existing water control district formed under ORS chapter 553 agrees to continue to provide operation and maintenance of the levees and perform other flood control and related works and improvements to the inhabitants of the diking district;

      (b) Any other sponsoring governmental agency to which the district owes an obligation under a contract or agreement consents to the dissolution and turnover to the successor district; and

      (c) The dissolving district has no outstanding indebtedness.

      (2) The dissolution may be initiated by the board of county commissioners of the county in which the district is located notwithstanding the provisions of ORS 198.920 (1)(c)(A). If the proposal meets all the conditions described by subsection (1) of this section, the board of county commissioners shall dispense with the election required by ORS 198.935. [1973 c.665 §2; 2011 c.9 §75]

_______________