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My new swamp

About 8 months ago my neighbor decided he wanted to add a water feature to his back yard. I should be note that his backyard slopes down towards my front yard. So, 22 feet later and he has a small mountain that is very pretty from his side, however he has decided to leave it bare on the side facing my home. No permits, cutting 15" into my property, removing my trees, and damaging my lawn. Only Recently was I able to get some help from the county and now he will soon answer for his actions in court. This, sadly, is not the issue, well not the only one anyway. The problem is he has removed trees, brush, and grass that would normally slow the drainage of storm water from his property. The result is a 20" ravine that follows the base of the rear facade of the new mountain into my front yard. When it rains it now floods my entire front lawn, and because it has been so long the ground is over saturated and cannot dry. I have spoken to my county storm water reps and the building inspector, they seem to think that you cannot add any additional elevation to the yard due to fear of runoff into the street. Their solution is simply removal of the existing grass and replacing it with sod. Is that enough? I had seen an episode of TOH, where a catch basin was created at the rear of the property to collect the storm water. However, this is my front lawn and truthfully the only grass I have. My thought is to remove enough soil to add a crushed rock base with a layer of sand and then a final layer of topsoil before I seed and straw. This way I can utilize the excess water to my advantage. My questions are...
Is sod a better decision than seeding?
Will it matter what kind of seed I want to plant? Is one better than another?
Will it be enough to simply replace the grass or should I follow my plan?
Is my plan even close to what you'd suggest?

Any advice you can give me would really help.

Shawn N
Atlanta, Ga

Re: My new swamp

Spend the money on a good Attorney and address this situation in court . YOU should not have to spend good money to put your yard back to it's original condition . Sounds like the County guys are pretty inept .

Re: My new swamp

I had a similar issue at my house in Florida. My neighbor in back built huge barn. He is at a higher elevation then my property. All the water from his house, driveway and barn funneled around one side of his barn, down my gravel driveway and almost washed out the pier supports of my front porch.

Rather then call the county, I approached him with the problem and offered this solution. I would fix the problem for $10 per hour labor, materials and rentals. He agreed. I rented a trencher, put in a large catch basin, and trenched two separate ditches and put in two four inch tiles and drained to to a lower elevation part of my property into a woods. I gave him the bill and he paid up. Problem solved.

Rather then spend thousands of dollars on an attorney try the neighborly approach first even if you hire it done rather then do it yourself. You could each spend lots of money on attorneys and engender lots of ill will between the two of you for years to come.

You could used trench drains rather then a large catch basin which would be almost invisible.

A. Spruce
Re: My new swamp

By all means, if you can use the neighborly approach as suggested by CaptTCB, you should definitely go that route. It will work out better for both you and your neighbor as well as your future relationship.

In lieu of that, the inspectors from the municipality clearly have their heads up their posteriors because it is supposed to be illegal to divert water from one property (your neighbor ) to another (yours ). If the best they can do is give you misinformation that sod will solve all your problems and don't you dare divert that excess water to their storm systems, they deserve to be named in the lawsuit as well. Diverting water to municipal systems is the preferred manner of handling excess water, that is what those systems are there for. What is not permissible is for erosion to be diverted to their systems, which shouldn't be an issue with a proper drainage system in place. Water will naturally percolate through soil and emerge clear, you just have to give it a chance to do so.

From the photos it looks like there is more than enough fall from your properties to the street to allow for natural run off to occur, it just needs a little help getting there. If your neighbor isn't willing to deal with or help deal with the problem he has created on his side of the fence, then you'll need to install a drainage system along your side of the fence. A trench with perforated drain tube and gravel should do the trick. If it were me I'd use a trenching machine and go 12" to 36" deep then layer in gravel, perf tube, more gravel, then top with soil. Depending on the depth of the trench, you could install two runs of perf tube. When you get to the sidewalk, just turn the tube vertical and cap it with a drain cap so that water can migrate out as necessary. When water levels subside, whatever is left in the perf tube and gravel will eventually percolate into the surrounding soil.

As for rejuvenating your yard, I am a proponent of sod over seed. I'm in California with great weather and growing conditions, and I've yet to see a seeded yard that was of any value after several months. Sod, on the other hand, is instant green, thick, and lush. The icing is that with sod, you're using the yard within a couple weeks, seed you'll be nursing for months before you can use it, and that's assuming you got a decent germination for all your work and efforts. Yes, sod is a little more expensive to start, however the benefits are excruciatingly cheap in comparison to the time and efforts for a more often than not failed seed attempt. You could go with hydroseed, however for what you're going to spend on hydroseed, you could have bought sod, and hydroseed isn't much different than normal seed when it comes to germination time and maintenance. Given a choice, I will go with sod every time.

Re: My new swamp

yep --- sod gets my vote.
If you seed it will get washed away along with the soil.

Re: My new swamp

Thanks for all the advice. I tried a few times to resolve this the neighborly way, but this guy doesn't seem to think he has done anything wrong. He has been cited for lack of permits and was cited again for not complying with what was required by county officials. He would rather do things his way and buy his way out than simply pay to fix the damage. Court is unavoidable, I have taken pictures and already mailed my letter of intent. I wish it hadn't come to this but he has given me no choice.

As far as the drainage issue, I like the idea of trenching but will it matter that I do not have anywhere to send the runoff? Basically, I was told that my yard has to be able to soak the excess storm water. I cannot channel it into anything without the "officials" getting upset. Will the trench evenly disperse the water throughout the yard? Also, how difficult is it to maintain the sod(i.e. treatments, upkeep, etc)?

This is the most amount of help I've received from anyone so far. Thanks again.

A. Spruce
Re: My new swamp

You need to go higher up in the municipal bureaucracy. As I said, they do not want dirt being washed into their systems, however excess water is exactly why they are there. In a perfect situation, you'd be lucky to be able to handle the water on your own property, and now you're being forced to deal with twice that amount because of the neighbor.

The drain system I proposed would direct the excess water to the street and into municipal systems. If you are not comfortable in doing that, I feel you will be hard pressed to resolve the flooding issue you currently have. Not only will you not be able to grow grass, but that much standing water throughout the rainy season will eventually kill what remains of those trees. Look at it this way, if the municipality is not making the neighbor correct his negligence and outright criminal activity, then what could they possibly do to you?

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