Thursday, August 19, 2010

Residential Neighborhoods Are Subsidizing Stormwater Costs of Private Developments

UPDATED:  The Redmond Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is many things to many people.  DNR is division of Public Works, the largest department in the city.  Our utility bill pays for DNR's stormwater management costs and if you didn't notice, our rates have increased dramatically over the past few years.

Council recently held a study session on our Utility rates.  Council was pleased with the value DNR brings to sustainability of our environment; however, Councilman Cole complained Redmond has the #1 stormwater rate in the area.  For example, Bellevue's stormwater rate is less than half our rate.

Much of our high rate is attributable to a grandiose plan to build spend  $90,000,000 on two regional stormwater facilities - in Overlake and Downtown.   Commercial and high rise development costs will be significantly less since they will not have to build their own facilities or use their land.   Council, obviously pro-business, decided several years ago that the residential rate-payer would front most of these facilities costs, including the very high cost of  land acquisition.
About three years ago, for the sole purpose of funding the regional stormwater facilities, Council quietly raised residential neighborhood utility rates 24% from  $12.56 to $16.56 /IU/month.  Councilman Hank Margeson was quick to say he was not on Council when the rate hike decision was made.  Residents will be subsidizing these Overlake and Downtown regional stormwater programs for 20 years.

In another pro-business maneuver, Council proposed raising the flat rate stormwater charge on ~ 90% of all single family homes, while lowering many commercial rates.   SW Redmond industries will have the largest increases because they haven't' been paying "their fair share" (for years) in treating impervious run-off - mostly from gravel.

Stormwater Manager, Jon Spangler advised council, "we are subsidizing in some respects, some of the cost of the stromwater from the private development side to single family homes."  Genie Industries, Cadman, Pre-cast, All-Wood Recycling, Watson Asphalt, and other long-time industrial contributors to Redmond's infrastructure growth may pay a significantly higher rate, but council wants to phase it in ~ over four years.   Councilman Hank Myers is the strongest advocate of SW industries rate subsidies and phasing, followed by support for Genie Industries by Vache' and Cole.

DNR's primary responsibility is to manage and treat our dirty stormwater before it runs into Puget Sound or gets absorbed into our groundwater.  Forty percent of Redmond's drinking water comes from underground wells so treating dirty surface water before it soaks into the ground is critical to the purity of our drinking water.  Lawn fertilizers, copper from vehicle brake linings, oils, and sediment from floods enter our stormwater and must be treated before running off into Bear Creek, the Sammamish River, Lake Sammamish and into Puget Sound.

DNR's secondary mission is restoring our riparian waterways and stormwater ponds by planting new trees and shrubs, removing invasive plants.  DNR is  relocating Bear Creek from the SR520 expansion, restoring Willows Creek, restoring the PSE easement widening project in the Watershed Preserve, providing environmental education, has built Leary wetland pond and the Bear Creek wetland pond, and on!

By Bob Yoder
Photo from city website
Edited by Reinke

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