Cities Raise Rates to Meet Federal Stormwater Regulations

Stormwater runoff is one of North Carolina's worst pollution problems, damaging wildlife in lakes and rivers and increasing flooding, The Charlotte Observer reported. Federal law requires local governments to develop programs to regulate it.

Most municipalities in Gaston County will be required to develop stormwater management programs under the Clean Water Act by spring 2005. Those programs will include maintenance, public education and stormwater fees. Residents who are not currently paying these fees soon will be.

Many cities are charging fees in the $2-$3 range for homes, and either flat fees or fees based on square feet of ground covered for businesses, churches and schools.

A number of smaller towns have never charged stormwater fees in the past, but new federal regulations that will require stormwater system upgrades are forcing these towns to institute such fees.

* In August, Mount Holly will begin charging $2.50 a month for homes and then more for businesses and other properties based on the size of their impervious surfaces -- those that won't absorb water.

* Next year, Belmont plans to charge $2 a month for homes. Other properties would be assessed a fee based on size.

* Cramerton and Bessemer City plan to start assessing stormwater fees next year once the state approves cities' applications.

All of this new regulation and increasing fee structures has caused legal battles between the N.C. Environmental Management Commission and the N.C. Rules Review Commission over how the rules to govern runoff should look.

The fees are "not related to what's going on inside the building," Joe Bieker, stormwater utility administrator, told The Charlotte Observer. "It's the size of the surface covering the ground."

The money collected by these fees will be used to repair drainage problems.

The Charlotte Observer

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