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UNFUNDED MANDATES: Storm Drains, Another Mandate for Cities

Posted April 2005



By L.K. Samuels

For years, the city of Bloomington, Illinois, was worried. They knew that the federal government, under new unfunded mandates, would force them to rework their storm drains. City staff and officials work diligently to find more money.

Bloomington had discovered that the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II (issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency) wanted them to implement a new construction project to re-build their storm drains. The old system was fine for preventing floods, but the federal government wanted more.

As the city of Bloomington wrote on their website, “What this means for most other cities, is enhanced storm water sewer system maintenance, and the implementation of new storm water management activities.”

But was the effected area limited somehow? Bloomington concluded, “All parcels, regardless of their location in a watershed, have an impact on water resources.” Why is this so important? Because in the past, storm drain systems focused solely on flood control. That is no longer the purpose, according to the federal government. Environmental laws are now concerned that all storm runoff may have high levels of sediment, litter, phosphorus, nitrogen, heavy metals, oil, grease and organic materials.

Bloomington attempted to find the fairest way to get citizens to pay for these new costs. City staff came up with the idea of taxing the size of parcels – gross area, including both pervious and impervious areas. The tax proposed was introduced as the Water Utility fee and approved on April 26, 2004 – another new tax on its citizens.

For Carmel Valley residents, cityhood means increasing tax bills and more control from state and federal government agencies.





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