Officials with the Municipality of Rhineland are reflecting on a recent meeting with representatives from Manitoba Sustainable Development/Water Stewardship to discuss drainage.

Rhineland requested the get together as the Province begins to unroll its plan of transitioning Manitoba conservation districts into watershed districts. A letter seeking the meeting explained that municipal officials believe discussions around water management from a watershed perspective need to include drainage including municipal, provincial and natural drains.

Currently, the Municipality of Rhineland doesn't belong to a conservation/watershed district, and before Council makes a move members want to ensure the municipality's needs will be met.

Last week's meeting centred on two main themes.

The first focused on Rhineland's ability to complete drainage projects and maintenance in natural drains. Officials sought answers to two questions: How to continue the practice of maintaining key privately owned drains without easement and how to obtain the drainage license without easement for first and second-order drains (what are municipal and landowner obligations?).

"It's been tradition by now that we clean out and maintain some of those natural drains, and they go across private ownership. Sometimes when ownership changes, the question comes up of who has the right to maintain those? So we spent some time talking to the province about that," explained Reeve Don Wiebe.

As a result, the department has said it will pass along some legal opinions as to what's the easiest way to confirm that practice with landowners.

"We feel it's a good practice and we want to continue it...because of our topography, it's so flat, everything matters," added Wiebe.

Additionally, the group talked about drainage license enforcement.

Wiebe explains with drain tile systems becoming quite widespread throughout the municipality, local officials wanted clarification as to who is responsible for enforcing violations to the licenses, as well as how to deal with illegal or blocked drains.

"We have policy on that and part of our policy because we struggled with the implementation of it, we also included best-practices," he said. However, the province has said it won't help municipalities enforce policy, and rather by-laws need to be created which Wiebe understands would then become part of the licensing process.

Wiebe adds Council's next step will be to research and develop these by-laws, as well as how to enforce them.