Storm Water Utility
Managing Storm Water in River Falls
The creation of the Storm Water Utility gives the city a dedicated source of revenue which will adequately support storm water management. This funding previously came from property taxes. However, funding storm water programs by property taxes is inequitable for the following reasons:
- Tax exempt properties generate storm water but would not contribute revenue toward storm water management.
- The assessed value of a parcel, which determines its property tax, is not proportional to the parcel's relative use of the city's storm water management system.
The storm water utility fee was put in place in 1998 thereby replacing the existing property tax based funding source with a utility fee that would allocate storm water costs to all properties, including tax-exempt properties.
Determination of Fees
The city determines fees for storm water service according to the gross size of a parcel (gross area of parcel, including both pervious and impervious areas). Commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental customers will pay based upon estimates of each parcels impervious areas.
Whether or not the storm water runoff from your site travels through any storm water pipes prior to entering the river has no bearing upon the storm water utility fee. In fact, untreated storm water runoff flowing directly into the river can be more detrimental to the river. In a piped system, there are opportunities for treatment at the end of the pipe prior to discharging to the river. The city is required by the DNR to remove 40% of the total suspended solids from the storm water runoff generated from all properties within the city limits. Runoff that flows directly to the river is contributing to the solids loading, but providing no opportunity for treatment.
Storm Water Management is a Regional Issue
In addition, the city has incurred, and will continue to incur, costs associated with storm water management of the river itself, such as stream bank stabilization, and removal of sedimentation deposits. We look upon storm water management as a regional issue for the entire city. In other words, some areas where it is more conducive to implement storm water management strategies, such as sedimentation and detention basins, can work to offset the negative impacts of lands where such facilities are less practical.
The original storm water utility fees were collected to cover maintenance and replacement costs and storm water management needs identified in the City of River Falls Water Management Plan for the Kinnickinnic River and Its Tributaries dated April 20, 1995. At the time the original fees were developed, state and federal grants were available to help fund many types of projects. These grant funds were anticipated to remain in place; however grant opportunities have been significantly limited during the past few years and are generally not available for maintenance and replacement costs.
The utility fees now cover all of that plus funding for federal mandates that have just begun to affect the city in recent years. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has signed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase II rules that affect smaller communities. Some of the new mandates required by these rule will require the city to implement practices such as:
- Public education and outreach programs on storm water impacts
- Establishing methods to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the storm water system.
- Enforcing construction site storm water runoff control.
- Monitoring post-construction storm water management
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for municipal operations
- Identify measurable goals for control measures and measure results.
If you feel that there are unique characteristics to your property that cause the quantity and quality of runoff to be significantly different than the average produced by other properties of similar land use, you may appeal the charge you are paying. If you appeal, we will do a more extensive analysis of the quantity and quality of runoff from your particular site, and adjust your monthly rate accordingly up or down. Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Engineering Department.