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FUNDING COMPLIANCE WITH Stormwater Phase II Requirements.

Stormwater management now has new meaning for more than 5,000 local governments across the country as a result of the Phase II rules that were issued at the end of 1999 by the EPA. Cities with populations over 100,000 were already required to comply with Phase I of the rules. Their experience suggests that many local governments will need to develop new regulations and practices and deal with increased costs. This article focuses on mechanisms to pay for the institutional and structural aspects of the program.


The well-documented linkage between stormwater and water prompted the latest rules. Urbanization reduces infiltration rates and adds many pollutants to our lakes and streams. Construction site runoff can be damaging to water quality. Stormwater loadings can even exceed municipal wastewater discharges.

The new regulations promote a "new relationship" between stormwater and public works. The negative effects of stormwater and the new rules suggest that communities should focus on stormwater as an important municipal function rather than as part of another function such as street maintenance. Unfortunately, this challenge comes at a time when many jurisdictions are facing severe financial crisis.

According to Emmett Dobey, Policy and Program Development, Olympia, Washington, "It is not going to be an easy task, but we must commit our communities to the challenge of making stormwater management just as much a part of our daily public works operations as street, water, and snow removal. In the Pacific Northwest, stormwater is an integral part of our daily lives. We must accept the challenge to manage stormwater or accept the determinable impacts to our lives and our natural resources.


Phase II regulations can be viewed in their entirety at the Web site: Briefly, Phase II makes use of a "best management" (BMP) approach. Each of the newly covered local governments is required to take six minimum steps as a part of its Clean Water Act NPDES permit. These include:

* Public education and outreach on stormwater impacts;

* Public involvement/participation;

* Illicit discharge detection and elimination;

* Construction site stormwater runoff control;

* Post construction stormwater management in new development and redevelopment;

* Pollution prevention/good housekeeping for municipal operations.

The EPA recommends that the states develop general permits for the municipalities affected by the new rule. A general permit would require municipalities to minimally meet the six best management practices (BMPs) listed above.


Runoff from construction sites has been known for many years to be a significant source of sediment and pollutant load to streams and lakes. Phase II rules put increased emphasis on new development and construction sites. Under Phase II, anyone who disturbs one or more acres of land must obtain an NPDES permit defining sediment and erosion controls to be used on the site. The types of controls that can be used include flow diversion; mulching and protecting bare soils; stormwater inlet protection; and filter fencing. Permit processes will vary from state to state, based on the approved state process.


Public works agencies can choose from a range of best management practices that have been shown to be effective for water quality improvement. Practices include ordinances, development guidelines, preventive measures, and structural controls. States and some counties have handbooks that outline acceptable BMPs and specifications. The challenge is to find the best set of approaches to apply to the local situation.States and some counties have handbooks that outline acceptable BMPs and specifications. The challenge is to find the best set of approaches to apply to the local situation.

Jim Bachhuber, a water quality engineer for Earth Tech in Madison, Wisconsin, also says, "In the last few years there has been an increasing number of commercial products available in the marketplace to complement the more traditional 'engineered' types of practices. These include pre-engineered treatment units."

BMPs will be installed in both new development and be retrofitted into existing neighborhoods. Jim Baumann of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources notes that Phase II puts a lot of emphasis on preventing problems from new development. "Think of Phase II BMP development in a practical business way. Do what you can do now, so that you are not restricted to costly future options. Retrofitting BMPs in the built environment is very expensive and problematic."

Not only is the cost of retrofitting stormwater controls after development much more expensive, it is also much less effective. Bob Pitt, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, says, "An excellent program implemented at the time of development may provide 75 percent control of many critical pollutants, while a retrofitted program would likely be restricted to about 25 percent levels of control. The watershed residents also experience a great deal of disruption when a retrofitting program is being implemented."


How much money will local governments need to meet Phase II requirements and improve stormwater quality in our municipalities? Many factors will affect the answer. Several categories of costs are associated with a stormwater management program. Stormwater management costs can be for program, infrastructure, land acquisition, and ongoing maintenance. Historically, stormwater costs have been funded by general funds, usually as a part of the street maintenance budget. With Phase II, many communities will require new funding sources.

Although estimating costs is extremely difficult on a national level, EPA has attempted to develop national cost numbers. For the purposes of this article, the author uses EPA's estimates as a means of introducing magnitudes of costs. EPA costs appear to be for stormwater programs rather than infrastructure. Costs for infrastructure, including land acquisition, can be substantial. From the public works perspective, costs are a relevant issue and the institutional mechanisms to deal with them are important.

According to the EPA Web site, the total national cost to local governments to implement a Phase II stormwater program is estimated to be $297 million. The EPA used actual program costs from Phase II-size communities in the estimates and assumed tat all communities would incur costs and that the costs were related to population size.

Using the EPA method, a community can calculate its own costs by adding an estimated annual "fixed" cost of $1,525 to a "variable" cost of $8.93 per household. The fixed cost consists of the administrative aspects of the program including record keeping and reporting activities. The variable component of the costs includes the annual operations of the six minimum BMPs. A word of caution in estimating costs: per capita estimates are best treated as a rule of thumb. Actual costs can vary widely depending on the region of a country, precipitation patterns, age of infrastructure, and size of municipality.

Construction site erosion control costs vary greatly by site, topography, and soil types. Typical costs range from a few hundred dollars to $1,800 per acre. Construction site costs are usually borne by the users--in this case the owners or the people doing the construction rater tan the general public.


The increased emphasis on stormwater will require new and modified stormwater systems as well as new organizational arrangements. Two fundamental questions are how to organize to accomplish these changes and how to pay for them. Clearly, Phase II rules are going to cost money.

Historically, public works agencies have handled stormwater as a sub-function of another function, usually street or highway maintenance. A relatively recent approach to organizing for stormwater management has been stormwater utilities. Richard Kato, principal of Kato and Warren, Seattle, Washington, says that stormwater system operations should be viewed as a utility-type function, much as sewer, power, and water funding provide both a steady revenue source from the user fees and an organizational mechanism to provide focus on the needs of the stormwater system. Kato adds, "Stormwater utilities have been successfully established all across the country and have monthly household rates that range from $1 to $12. Phase II requirements will cause more communities to look for this type of additional resource to properly develop, operate, and maintain their stormwater systems."

A range of financing mechanisms are available, according to Professor Greg Lindsey at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis. "Municipalities can fund stormwater programs with a variety of sources: taxes, fees and charges, bonds and loans, grants and intergovernmental transfers, and even fines. The best programs match particular types of fees with specific activities. For example, fees and charges can be used to pay for plan review and inspection services. Impact fees can be used to help fund infrastructure costs associated with development. Property taxes historically have been used to fund maintenance and capital improvements, but municipalities increasingly are turning to stormwater charges based on impervious area because they are both fairer and create incentives to minimize impervious area. A primary task of planning is to sort out the most appropriate mix of methods."


Program compliance costs for many Phase II communities are likely to be significant. Because stormwater programs have often been under-funded due to the competition for scarce resources in public works, municipalities will have to search for new ways to fund these pollution-preventing activities. Viewing stormwater as an enterprise and developing a stormwater utility, or establishing regional management solutions are merely two of numerous approaches that may help cities address Phase II. Ultimately, however, the success of Phase II implementation will hinge on the degree of community support.

Emmet Dobey, of Olympia, Washington, summarizes, "It is not easy to launch a new public works initiative to manage stormwater. Local leaders must strive to build support from the entire community. The effort requires first that the social and environmental problems associated with stormwater be clearly explained. Public works leaders then must provide specific solutions that their organization can provide."

Dr. Eagan is assistant professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison 's Department of Engineering Professional Development (EPD).
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Author:Eagan, Patrick
Publication:Public Works
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2000
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