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Utilities often cross privately owned properties. Easements over utilities on private properties grant the utility providers the right to access that part of the property for reasons noted in the easement agreement and to set land use conditions over the easement.

In the world of buried infrastructure, permanent easements, especially for publicly owned sewerage and water distribution systems, are usually dedicated by private property developers when the record plans are submitted for approval during the land development process. (Most utilities are located on land designated to be publicly owned rights-of-way to eliminate the need for easements). Many municipalities have neglected recording these private property easements in a legally binding fashion. This is a significant issue on sewer and water rehabilitation projects where not only are the deeds insufficiently documented to allow replacement or rehabilitation, but many municipalities and consulting engineers are uncertain as to the actual process for acquiring new or confirming existing permanent easements.

The objective of this paper is to increase the understanding of engineers and public utilities officials regarding the impact of easements on sewer and water rehabilitation projects by outlining the steps that need to be taken to confirm that an existing utility on a private property has a legally established easement and the procedures for acquiring a new permanent easement. The paper also explains legally enforceable forms of agreements, highlights key components of an agreement, and lists the essential signatories to an agreement.

The paper is based on experiences with sanitary sewer easements in New Castle County, Delaware. While the basic concepts related to easements hold true for most utilities and municipalities, the specific legal requirements will vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The reader is encouraged to refer to applicable code for these specifics.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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