Federal regulators recently sat down with Wyoming Valley residents who oppose a new local fee that funds stormwater management.
The Environmental Protection Agency said its goal was to facilitate discussion between residents and local officials, and to encourage officials to work on addressing constituents’ needs.
Stormwater fees fund projects that increase a community’s flood resilience and reduce pollution. In the Wyoming Valley, a stream restoration, rain garden and other installations are in the works.
The fees, sometimes derided as a rain tax, are typically assessed based on a property’s amount of impervious surfaces, such as roofs, driveways and livestock walkways.
These surfaces do not absorb rain and swell the amount of fast-moving runoff that contributes to erosion and water pollution.
Municipal stormwater authorities were allowed under a 2013 state law, and about 20 local governments in Pennsylvania have one.
Most are in cities or towns, but the 32-municipality Wyoming Valley project takes in some rural and agricultural land as well.
The stormwater program, managed by the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority, has a budget of $8.9 million and began sending bills in January.
Homeowners pay about $60, but one farmer told Lancaster Farming his bill was $1,400.
As a new levy, stormwater fees can be difficult to sell to constituents.
Opposition from farmers and other residents caused York County to reconsider a proposed countywide stormwater authority earlier this year.
Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA sets national stormwater standards. But in a press release, the agency emphasized that it’s up to local officials to choose the best way to fund and meet their communities’ stormwater needs.
“This flexibility allows communities to assess their specific needs and make the best decisions for their citizens,” said Cosmo Servidio, the EPA’s Mid-Atlantic regional administrator.
Localities may also use other sources of income, such as general funds and development fees, to finance stormwater projects, according to the EPA.