Driveway Culvert Maintenance Responsibilities on BC Highways: Your Questions Answered

1Do you own property along a BC highway? If you do, you may have some questions about driveway culverts and culvert maintenance.

You’ve come to the right place.

Whether you are constructing a new driveway culvert, or you have a pre-existing driveway culvert that needs replacing or maintenance,  it’s your responsibility to make sure it is big enough, installed correctly and functioning properly. Just like many other aspects of home ownership, maintenance is key, especially in the case of driveway culverts. Good culvert maintenance protects roads, properties and the environment. Here’s what you need to know in order to keep your culvert and road access clear.

What you Need for a New Culvert

If there is an existing ditch line along your property, you will need a culvert. Here’s the scoop:

  • We require that you provide a minimum 400-mm (16-inch) diameter pipe (preferably corrugated steel). In coastal areas or areas of high rain runoff, a larger diameter pipe will be required.
  • The culvert should be longer than the width of your driveway. The standard residential driveway is six metres (20 feet).
  • The culvert length should be a minimum of nine metres (30 feet) to allow for the driveway fill on either side of the driveway.
  • Culvert pipe (preferably corrugated steel) needs to be a minimum diameter of 400-mm (16 inches) by nine metres (30 feet) in length. Big O plastic pipe can be used, but the construction practices will vary in the installation. The culvert must have more gravel and fill on top of the pipe to buffer it from the weight of vehicles travelling over the pipe. It should be noted that metal pipe is preferred due to its reliability and strength. Here’s a list of our recognized products, we suggest that you review the list prior to culvert installation.
  • The culvert should be placed slightly below the invert or lowest point in the ditch. Consider the implications of ditch maintenance and cleaning by the ministry maintenance contractor.
  • The culvert should be covered with granular material to a depth equal to half the diameter of the culvert. For example, if the culvert is 400mm (16 inches) in diameter, the depth of the cover must be a minimum of 200mm (8 inches) in depth. This amount of cover is necessary to protect the culvert from collapse.
  • Our right of way is often also a utility corridor, so if you are going to be doing any excavation, it is your responsibility to call BC 1 before you dig. Fortis and Telus are the prime 2 utility companies that have underground infrastructure, however there are others on occasion that need to be considered as well.
  • If a head wall or end treatment is required, they will be spelled out on your permit.
  • If there is a ditch in front of your property and the water only runs during the spring, you are still required to put a culvert in. There can be extensive damage to the road and your driveway in a short time if the culvert was not put in place.Culvert cross section

How to Maintain a Pre-existing Culvert:

  • You are responsible for driveway culvert maintenance. Culvert maintenance involves keeping both the inlet and outlet of the pipe free of debris so that it works properly, including removing snow and ice during the winter months whenever possible.
  • Ensure your culvert is constructed of a recognized product. (For example we wouldn’t accept a culvert that is manufactured out of wood). Here’s a list of recognized products we accept.
Image Courtesy Regional District of Fraser Fort George

Bonus Questions (and answers)

We often hear the question: “Am I responsible for clearing the snow off of my access in winter?”

Yes. An individual who has an access point on a BC highway is responsible for all maintenance including clearing snow from highway plowing operations at the access entrance.

Another popular question: “Am I responsible for clearing the ditch between my property and the roadway?”

No. Our maintenance contractors are responsible for clearing the ditches alongside provincially maintained roadways to make sure the water on our roads has somewhere to go. Please note: ditches are not a storm water system for managing private property surface drainage. Surface water on private property should be dealt with within the boundaries of the property, not directed into highway drainage systems.

All clear? We hope so. Culverts are an important way to keep water and debris moving smoothly. If you have any other questions about culvert maintenance or anything else the ministry does, let us know in the comments below.

Page 1 of 87 comments on “Driveway Culvert Maintenance Responsibilities on BC Highways: Your Questions Answered”

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  1. My rural home is on a hillside at the corner of two 66 foot road allowances in the SCRD. The homeowners above me on the other side of the main road do not, and will not, maintain the ditch or the culverts on the road allowance in front of their properties. Rainwater streams down their driveways and onto the road instead of into the ditch. It then crosses the road which cants toward my home and the road allowance that run along side my home. The fast running water carves out & undercuts the blacktop on the shoulder road above and races down the side road allowance & my driveway. The most recent and worst result of this ongoing concern was a small lake in my front yard and a serious leak in my finished basement. The homeowner below me lost much of their recent landscaping and could not drive off their property without having to hire a backhoe.Their home is on a high-bank cliff and water was running over the cliff too. Local road maintenance has been helpful. I’m sincerely hoping you will find someone to look into this further.

      • I have contacted SCRD, MOTI, Capilano Highways & local Road Maintenance, also the Area Director for this location on the Coast, & neighbours. There is a problem along this area of the roadways that is allowing water to flow over and on to private properties.
        I believe this situation has become a jurisdictional football lost in the ‘chain of command’. SCRD passes to MOTI, MOTI passes to Capilano Highways in West Vancouver, the West Van office passes to the local Capilano maintenance supervisor who passes to a worker (or not) and NO ONE fixes the source of the problem. I am, as is my neighbour below me, being rudely ignored & dismissed and this has been going on for a long a time. The amount of water streaming on to our properties from the road allowances in this small stretch of road could be corrected if MOTI would provide well defined instructions to local road maintenance for ongoing care in this location. Question: Who, with the knowledge, skill, & some authority (not just a monitor) will meet with me & my neighbour on some very rainy days to visually assess & promote this problem up the chain of command for corrective road maintenance? Thank you.

          • Do you mean you have sent my request to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) office, or do you mean sent to the Sunshine Coast Capilano Highways maintenance office, or do you mean sent to the Sunshine Coast MOTI office? Whichever, I’m staying tuned in. Thank you for your attention to my request. René

          • Hi again Rene,

            We understand that one of our staff contacted you directly via email to set up some time to visit your property before and during a rainfall event. We hope that this helps. Please let us know if you need anything else.

  2. I’m having trouble finding the right place for info on side hill water control, and responsibility for it. I have land bound by two parallel roads about 100 feet apart. On the high side of the first road, there is a ditch and culverts which direct the uphill ditch water under the road onto my property. All good so far. However, when the water crosses the property and tries to pass under the second road (old rail bed converted to walking path, with no apparent culverts but possibly French drain system), it is unable to do so effectively because of brush and annual leaf litter buildup. There has been no maintenance along the toe of the slop on this second road. This has caused the water to pool and backup into my property which has become a surface water retention pond and is chronically wet. Livestock have been kept in this area for over 70 years, but it’s now too wet to use. Where should I look for legislation that defines responsibility … is this my problem, or should the municipality be accountable?

  3. We have a ditch in front of our property. The accumulation of water in the ditch is virtually non-existent even in heavy rains as the road slopes to the opposite side which has no ditch. The ditch is over 4 feet deep in some spots, we see this as a danger for people traveling down the road as there is no shoulder. The property’s up the road have no ditch just a swale. Also the ditch has not been maintained and is over grown with trees and brush, which will become a fire hazard in the heat of the summer. Other properties in close proximity have a swale of 1′ deep. If it were a swale rather than a ditch we would be willing to maintain it. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.

    • Hello Brenda,

      Could you let us know your approximate location? We would like to connect you with your local area office directly for further discussion.

  4. I definitely agree that maintenance for these pipes are crucial, so the insight you give about this was helpful. Specifically, you talk about how this involves keeping both the inlet and outlet of the pipe free of debris so that it works properly. Not only will this keep the pipe functioning, but it will help you to avoid any type of additional issues that you would have to clean up and pay for. Thus, doing this maintenance regularly will ensure that the pipes are always functioning and no damage or harm comes from them. Thank you for sharing!