Drainage leads to lawsuit – Calera resident files suit against city, CSX

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Calera resident has filed a lawsuit against the city and CSX railroad company regarding a faulty drainage ditch that routinely floods his home and property.

James Ryan lives within view of Calera City Hall. A drainage ditch runs parallel to the CSX railroad that sits just a few yards from his home. When it rains, the ditch often floods, causing serious problems for Ryan.

Ryan said the city claims the ditch belongs to CSX, and CSX claims the ditch belongs to Ryan.

&uot;If they would replace one drain my problem would be gone,&uot; Ryan said.

According to the lawsuit, CSX recently replaced a drain on its railroad right of way with a larger drain. The changes allowed a larger flow of water into the downstream waterways that connect to Ryan’s property on 17th Avenue. Since the upstream drain was changed but not the downstream drain, Ryan’s yard has become a holding pond after it rains, the lawsuit states.

Ryan’s flooding problems began about six years ago.

&uot;It makes no sense to me. I don’t understand why they have neglected me so long,&uot; he said.

Ryan said his home has flooded several times, leading to costly repairs and renovations. He worries that his home’s foundation has been jeopardized by the repeated flooding.

On at least two occasions, Ryan said he had to move out of his home due to the flooding. According to the lawsuit, the City of Calera holds the right of way that the drain goes under. Ryan presented his problem to the city in writing before filing the lawsuit on Nov. 9.

The flooding has eroded Ryan’s yard so much that now he must place gravel on the ground.

He has remodeled the inside of his home after flooding three separate occasions. He has replaced stoves and other electrical equipment damaged from flooding, and he has rented an apartment twice due to the home’s condition.

Underneath his home, Ryan said the foundation is sinking.

&uot;It’s a constant battle just to save my home,&uot; he said.

Ryan was born in the home in 1964 after his mother built it.

&uot;She put a lot into this,&uot; he said.

According to Ryan, his property did not flood before CSX installed the larger drain in its right of way.

Ryan is seeking compensation and punitive damages from the city and CSX.

&uot;I think they’re both wrong,&uot; Ryan said. &uot;When you come home to find out you lost everything in your house – that’s not a good feeling,&uot; he said.

In other parts of Calera, drainage problems have hampered new subdivisions such as Camden Cove.

Residents from Camden Cove attended the last Calera City Council meeting, presenting photographs of eroded ditches swallowing up their back yards.

The city has adopted stricter regulations regarding ditches and what conditions developers must meet when installing them in new subdivisions