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Farming the "Right of Way"
Is Against the Law...
Over the past year, the SD Association of Towns and Townships seem to be asked on a more frequent basis questions in regards to farming of the ditch and destruction of the roadways. Just recently a township was involved in a small claims lawsuit against a landowner who's slow but steady farming of the right-of-way damaged the road. The township sued to seek recovery of the repair costs after the landowner refused to cooperate in reconstructing the road. The Court awarded the township a judgment for the cost of repairing the road.
State law makes it a criminal offense to destroy the roadway and the ditches. Such action may result in criminal charges or civil penalties (or both) against the landowner. Depending on the nature of the damage and circumstances, the criminal charges range from a Class 2 to a Class 1 Misdemeanor or even a Class 6 Felony. In addition, civil penalties of two or three times greater the cost of repairing the damage within the right of way can be imposed upon the landowner for damage.
Furthermore, farming the right of way or placing obstructions such as drainage trenches, fences or rock piles within the right of way may create a public hazard and increases liability exposure for both the landowner and the township.
(Farming the ROW Cease and Desist and Sample Letters can be found in the "Members Only" Section)