by: Angela Danovi, Ozarks Water Watch Arkansas Project Coordinator
Earlier this month the City of Fayetteville presented several community informational sessions on a study currently underway for a new plan to mange stormwater, flooding, and drainage problems. I attended the session on January 9, 2018. Twenty million dollars is the current estimated cost presented that is needed to address stormwater, drainage, and flooding problems within the city of Fayetteville. Currently, there is only about $200,000 allocated to stormwater management. The city is currently exploring the option of a stormwater utility fee to raise the funds needed to address the growing, worsening, and increasingly more expensive problems associated with runoff, drainage, and flooding in Fayetteville.
The city has asked for residents and businesses in Fayetteville to participate to participate in a Stormwater Survey available here.
The city has contracted with Jacobs Engineering to conduct a “Study for Flood Management and Water Quality Funding”. This study aimed to identify three things:
- What’s the current stormwater program, infrastructure, and cost?
- What do the residents and city planners want out of their stormwater management program?
- And, what are some ways that improved management activities and infrastructure might be funded?
It may help people understand the study by having some common information and background about stormwater and why the city has identified the need for this study and the need to identify future funding for stormwater, drainage, and flooding. A background informational flyer is available here. The presentation made to Fayetteville residents is available here.
Fayetteville lies in major 2 watersheds, the Illinois River Watershed and the White River or Beaver Lake Watershed. The divide between the 2 runs along Mount Sequoyah and the downtown area. Rainwater falling within the city of Fayetteville will eventually enter either the Illinois River or Beaver Lake.
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is generated from rain and snowmelt events that flow over land or impervious surfaces, such as paved streets, parking lots, and rooftops, and does not soak into the ground. The runoff can pick up pollutants like trash, chemicals, oils, and dirt/sediment that can harm our rivers, streams, and lakes. The city of Fayetteville is responsible for managing its own storm water.
Why is the City Concerned about Stormwater?
Fayetteville faces a growing backlog of drainage and stormwater management issues that can cause flooding of streets, structures, and the property of those who live here. Although customers can identify where the worst issues are, the City does not currently have the financial resources or legal access to fix them all. Recent storms have generated hundreds of service requests for the City, on top of stormwater management activities and water quality projects that are mandated, but not funded, by the CleanWater Act. The City is responsible for operating and maintaining the public portion of Fayetteville’s municipal stormwater system. For example, approximately 65 percent of its roads and rights of way, 57 percent of the drainage pipes, and 43 percent of its outfalls are public.
With the city’s growing population, there was a recognitionfor an increasing need to identify sustainable options for funding stormwater management.
What is spent on Stormwater?
The City currently spends approximately $1.3 million annually on stormwater activities. This includes compliance with the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality stormwater permit requirements,maintenance and repair of the public drainage system, as well as water quality and flood management activities. The City’s 2018 Drainage Improvement Plan estimates that more than $15 million is needed to protect public safety by addressing our most urgent backlog of stormwater maintenance and capital projects. More funds are needed to identify issues that have not yet been documented.
The purpose of the study is to present options for sustainable funding for stormwater management, to reduce flooding, and protect water quality. The study has three phases:
What is the Proposed Solution?
The City is proposing to develop an “Early Action Plan” to address the most significant stormwater projects, to be presented to voters in early 2019 as part of a bond program. To determine the best way to fund the remaining needs going forward, the City is conducting this Study for Flood Management & Water Quality Funding to evaluate a range of options.
What will the Study Do?
- Review the City’s existing stormwater system and program.
- Collect input from the City Council, staff, and City residents regarding the current state, and the necessary/desired future state of the City’s stormwater programs.
- Assess the advantages and disadvantages of various means of funding the program, including ongoing intermittent bond referendums, additional General Fund or Capital Improvement Program resources, and/or a dedicated stormwater fee.
How does a Stormwater Fee for Service Work?
- Fees must be directly related to the services provided
- The amount of the fee is associated with the amount of impervious surface on a piece of property.
- A credit system can be put in place for property owners to reduce their fee by taking actions to reduce runoff and allowing rainwater to soak in or be retained on their property.
- Fees collected must be accounted for separately and can only be spent for the purposes of managing stormwater, drainage, and flooding within the city limits of Fayetteville.
Are other cities paying a stormwater fee?
Yes, there are currently two communities in Arkansas with stormwater fees:
- Hot Springs, AR has a flat rate of $4.25/month for residential and a tiered rate for commercial based on the square footage of impervious surface.
- Bryant, AR has a monthly flat fee of $3/month for residential properties and $6/month for commercial and industrial accounts.
- Jacobs Engineering pulled data from 119 communities in Texas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Oklahoma with stormwater fees and found an average cost of $3.83/month per property.
What should I do next?
Complete the Stormwater Survey available here.
Access the presentations and more information about the Study for Flood Management and Water Quality Funding at https://speakup.fayetteville-ar.gov/study