Jun 09, 2005

Stormwater Fee to Reduce Pollution, Flooding

Under pressure to comply with federal regulations to keep natural waterways clean, the Volusia County Council, Fla. had to raise the fee to collect and direct storm water, the News-Journal Corporation reported.
Since 1993, the county has charged $30 per home. According to the report, the new charge will bring the cost to a homeowner in the unincorporated area to $72 a year.
The council said that businesses and subdivisions that share responsibility for managing rain runoff would be eligible for a 68% discount if they prove their systems are containing and filtering the water.
The new fee was implemented because the county needs the money to build more ponds and drainage to hold storm water. It also needs to improve maintenance on ditches, dikes and trenches that have fallen into disrepair. According to county staff estimates, the increase would allow them to construct the necessary projects within 15 years. Without it, it would take 50 years.
The Volusia County must also comply with the national Clean Water Act. That means it has to protect and monitor the quality of the water in the area's natural systems, from the St. Johns River to Spruce Creek. Of Volusia's 16 watershed basins, the county has plans in place to manage the flow of stormwater in just nine. However, That’s not good enough, the report said.
Federal regulators expect the county to identify which pollutants and in what quantities are entering rivers and streams, not to mention formulate ways to control it. Whether it's silt, residue from heavy metals or fecal coliform from animals, the county needs to develop plans to stem the flow into its waterways.
In line for a study to determine how to do that is Deep Creek, a long waterway that stretches across the county's rural middle and dumps into Lake Monroe. Because it flows through largely undeveloped land, its waters are relatively clean and the county needs ensure it stays that way, according to the News-Journal Corporation report.
Any new plan to manage stormwater needs to preserve the natural lands that act as a filter and help replenish the aquifer. The council should act now to both buy land for those purposes and direct development away from local watersheds.
In addition to water quality concerns, the council needs to worry about flooding, said the report. Where development interferes with the natural flow of rainwater, homes and businesses bear the unpleasant brunt when waterways overflow. The county needs more drainage projects in flood-prone areas, and it needs to stop development that would impede natural drainage.