Update on Storm Water Bill

Update on Storm Water Bill

The City and County of Honolulu ("City") has proposed a new utility for storm water. On May 30th the Department of Facility Maintenance ("DFM") of the City concluded the second of two rounds of community meetings on the City's proposal. The City launched its study on the implementation of a storm water utility in the Summer of 2019 and plans to introduce a bill for the utility to City Council in 2021.

What is storm water?

Storm water runoff is the rainfall that flows from rooftops, pavements and other surfaces into ditches, drains and canals before reaching the ocean. Storm water runoff, unlike sewer water, is not treated before it reaches the ocean.

What is a storm water utility?

A storm water utility is a municipal entity organized for the management of storm water. Storm water utilities operate on fee-based funding. The fees collected by the utility should be used exclusively for storm water management activities. The current storm water utility proposal does not introduce any new restrictions on development.

How is the City's storm water currently managed?

At the federal level, storm water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act, and at the state level, it is regulated by the Department of Health's Clean Water Branch. The City manages storm water primarily through DFM's Storm Water Quality Branch, which is involved in activities such as stream cleaning, water quality monitoring, maintenance of green infrastructure (e.g. permeable pavement and rain gardens), catch basin and drain cleaning, construction site inspections, illicit discharge prevention and enforcement, education and community outreach. Other City departments, including the Department of Design and Construction and the Department of Planning and Permitting are also involved in some aspects of storm water management. 

How is the City's storm water management currently funded?

Storm water management is currently funded through a combination of real property taxes and funds from the Highway Improvement Fund, at a cost of approximately $91.6 million a year.

Who will be expected to pay the fee?

Under the current proposal, all property owners will pay a storm water utility fee. The properties subject to a storm water utility fee will include taxable and non-taxable properties and properties owned by the state and federal governments. 

What are the anticipated costs to property owners?

Under the City's current plan, the fee will be calculated based on a property's impervious area: the areas of a property which cannot absorb water (e.g. pavement, roof, etc.). Therefore, the fee will be roughly based on the amount of storm water run-off produced on the property. The owner of a median single-family home (3,900 square feet) could pay a fee of approximately $12-$16 per month, prior to application of any credits. The owner of a 34,000 square foot apartment complex could pay a fee of approximately $170 - $238 per month, prior to application of any credits. Credits will be available to property owners who implement methods to decrease the amount of storm water runoff from their property.

Any payment of storm water utility fees will be postponed until July 1, 2022 or later, depending on economic conditions. 

What will the funds be used for?

Besides the current storm water management activities, the funds raised from the storm water utility may be used to engage in proactive cleaning, repair and maintenance and securing of grants and partnerships for storm water projects.

How has community input impacted the proposal for the storm water utility?

The City held two rounds of community meetings between February and May, in various locations throughout the City. At the second round of community meetings, the study group shared some of the feedback it received during the first round of community meetings and stated that its next steps are creation of the following:

  • An island-wide Storm Water Master Plan,
  • A credit program,
  • A relief or hardship plan for elderly property owners, small non-profit corporations, and low-income families, and
  • A Neighborhood Investment Plan for reinvesting storm water funds into communities.

These topics will also be discussed at upcoming Stakeholder Advisory Group meetings.

How can I share my opinion on the storm water utility?

The City has established a storm water utility website, which contains more information on the City's study and information on how to participate in the ongoing discussion regarding the utility. A Stakeholder Advisory Group holds meetings to discuss issues related to implementation of the storm water utility, incorporating comments from the public into its discussions. The public is invited to observe the meetings and submit their comments for consideration here.

The upcoming virtual Stakeholder Advisory Group Meetings are currently scheduled for:

  • Monday, July 13, 2020, and
  • Monday, August 24, 2020.

This appeared in Monday's Star Advertiser. We thought this may be of interest.

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