Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Public Weighs in on MSD's Proposal to Address Flooding, Erosion by Charging for Impervious Surfaces

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Public Weighs in on MSD's Proposal to Address Flooding, Erosion by Charging for Impervious Surfaces

Article excerpt

As the region deals with increasingly common and severe flood-related issues, the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District says that customers turn to the water and wastewater utility for help.

Though not typically in its domain, MSD has identified a list of 500 local projects where it can help alleviate flooding and erosion problems -- if it can first get funding for the effort.

At a public meeting Tuesday in Sunset Hills, the utility outlined and fielded questions about its proposal to tackle those issues by adding a new charge to bills. The charge would be determined by a given property's amount of impervious surfaces -- meaning areas that do not absorb water -- and would eventually need to be approved by a public vote.

MSD says the list of unfunded stormwater issues in its service area would cost an estimated $562 million to address over a 30-year time span. If phased in, the tiered pricing system for impervious surfaces would cost an average residential customer $2.25 per month, or $27 annually.

The utility's CEO, Brian Hoelscher, said public surveys helped identify that strategy as "the fairest way to distribute the costs of this program," and that surface-related charges are used broadly in other parts of the country.

Proposed uses for the revenue would include buying out flood-prone properties built in hard-hit flood plains.

"What we're recommending is we buy the homes out proactively, as a service," said Hoelscher, explaining that MSD would start with properties "that are the most critical," including some in two- and five-year flood plains.

The utility says creeks and streams would remain privately owned and responsibility for flood plain management would remain in the hands of local municipalities.

Some attendees expressed skepticism or outright disapproval of the proposed charge, questioning why, for instance, the utility's customer base should bear the costs of problematic flood plain development. …

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