Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware:
Section 1. § 504, Title 17, Delaware Code, is amended by striking out all of said section and substituting the following:
§ 504. Entry upon contiguous or adjacent lands or streams; assessment of damages; hindering or obstructing work; penalty
(a) In order to obtain the free passage of water for drainage of any road or causeway under its jurisdiction, the Department or its agents may enter upon any lands contiguous or adjacent to such road or causeway in order to maintain or repair any existing artificial or natural ditch, drain, culvert or sewer.
(b) In order to keep the waters of ditches, drains, streams and creeks within their proper channels, thereby preventing them from encroaching upon or flooding any road or causeway under its jurisdiction, the Department or its agents may enter upon and occupy the beds of any ditches, drains, streams and creeks contiguous or adjacent to such roads or causeways, and perform such work of construction, improvement or maintenance as may be necessary or desirable to prevent such encroachment or flooding.
(c) Damages, if any, sustained by the owner of such contiguous or adjacent lands or ditch, drain, stream or creek beds as the result of operations under section (a) or (b) hereof, or both, shall be adjusted by agreement between the Department or its agents, and such owner. If, however, the Department or its agents is unable to agree with such owner as to the damages sustained, if any, and the damages claimed are less than $1,000,
the issue of damages, shall be submitted to the Court of Common Pleas of the County in which the property involved is situated. Such Court of Common Pleas shall have full and complete jurisdiction to hear and determine the such issue of damages, if any. In order to invoke the jurisdiction of such Court of Common Pleas the Department or its agents shall apply to it for a summons, directed to the Sheriff of the County, commanding him to summons such owner to appear before the Court at a time and place specified in such summons, not less than 5 days nor more than 15 days from the date thereof, for the purpose of having the issue of damages, if any, determined. Such Court shall determine the issue of damages, if any, in accordance with the procedures contained in the statutes governing the trial of civil actions before Courts of Common Pleas generally.
(d) The judgment of the Court of Common Pleas shall not become final until 15 days after it has been handed down. While the case is pending and during the 15 day period after judgment, the owner may file a demand in writing with the Court of Common Pleas and with the Highway Department that the case be brought before the Superior Court as a condemnation proceeding under Chapter 61, Title 10 of this Code. During the same period the Highway Department shall also have the right to abandon the proceedings and proceed with condemnation in the Superior Court. Upon timely demand or abandoning as herein provided the Highway Department shall proceed with condemnation under Chapter 61, Title 10. If such demand or abandoning is done after the judgment is handed down but before the end of the 15 day period, the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas shall be vacated.
() In cases where the owner claims damages of more than $1,000 the Court of Common Pleas shall have no jurisdiction and all proceedings where there is a failure to agree on damages shall be under Chapter 61, Title 10.
(a) The amount of damages ultimately determined or agreed upon shall be paid out of funds appropriated to the Highway Department by the State Treasurer to such owner, when properly notified by the Department or its agents.
(g) Whoever hinders or delays the Department or its agents in the construction, repair, or maintenance of any such ditch, drain, culvert or sewer, or whoever stops, fills up, injures or obstructs any such ditch, drain, culvert or sewer, or whoever obstructs, diverts or changes the course of any such stream or creek without authority from the Department or its agents, shall be fined not more than $100 for every such offense.