Citizens of Kalama and the business owners in the downtown area are well aware of how much water can come off the hillsides when the City is hit with heavy rains. The flooding in December 2015 was devastating, and the City has been working, and continues to work, to find the answers to this long- standing problem in Kalama. Downtown sits at the bottom of the hillside to the east and is bordered on the west by Interstate 5 which often acts as a dike. The current drainage system consists of lines laid back in the fifties, natural drainage ways, and a converted sewer line to help the water collect and flow out to the Kalama and Columbia Rivers under I-5 and the railroad. Many of the pipes are undersized to meet the needs of today’s runoff. Downtown business owners are demanding the City address the issues now rather than later.
For over twenty years the need for the City to establish a stormwater utility and implement a fee has been brought to the Council meetings for discussion, but none have acted to form the utility and fund it. The discussion always ended due to concerns with the costs that would be borne by the citizens. Every other entity in Cowlitz County, and most in western Washington, are already charging their citizens and funding stormwater utilities. RCW Chapter 35.67 allows the City to form a stormwater management utility to provide for the planning, development, management, operation, maintenance, use, and improvements of the storm drainage system.
Utility: A utility is an enterprise that is operated or regulated by a government entity.
Enterprise Funds: The enterprise funds are predominantly self-sustaining by a set rate and account for the acquisition, operation, and maintenance of the associated facilities.
Implementing the Stormwater Utility
In the 2018 budget the City included $50,000 to spend on drafting a plan for establishing a stormwater utility as a first step to address the City’s drainage system. The final draft is being completed and will be sent to the Council for review in November. The plan recommends the immediate formation of a stormwater utility and an established fee for funding the utility.
What’s the Cost?
The rate will be based on square footage of impervious surface with a base rate established for single-family homes estimated to be $5 to $6 per month for the average home owner. The City will hold a PUBLIC HEARING on NOVEMBER 1, 2018 at 7PM to review the plan, listen to the recommendations, take testimony from the public, and consider the formation of the utility. If the Stormwater Utility is formed, the Council will also be asked to set a rate structure to fund the utility which would be effective January 1, 2019. Implementing new rates on the citizens is not taken lightly by the Council, but inaction on this issue has allowed the system to become inadequate and aged beyond its capacity, so prompt action is necessary. We hope the public will take the time to get the facts, read the draft plan, and come out to provide and hear testimony on this important issue.