Thursday, October 06, 2005

City of Portland Stormwater Fee - a Homeowner's Opinion

The City of Portland, Oregon charges property owners a fee for stormwater. The City used to offer a discount on this fee for property owners who disconnected their downspouts or installed other runoff reducing measures. The discount program was discontinued several years ago, but the City Council voted to re-institute it. There is now a proposal by Commissioner Adams for a new stormwater discount program.

Following is a letter I recently sent to Commissioner Adams about this program:

Dear Commissioner Adams (Sam): Like many Portlanders, we have been patiently waiting for the stormwater fee discount program to begin. For us, the principle is more important than the actual money.

We moved into a new duplex townhouse in SE Portland (Hawthorne area) in 2002. According to the builder, he was required by the City to install a stormwater infiltration system that added $7,000 - $8,000 to the construction costs. With this system, virtually 100% of the stormwater that falls on this property stays on the property and infiltrates into the ground.

We consider the City stormwater system to be a utility. Consider this; if we installed solar panels and small wind turbines on our house and generated all of the electricity we use, we would not pay the electric utility anything for electricity. Similarly, if we captured rain water in a cistern and didn't use any City of Portland water, we would not be billed for water usage. The same would be true if we had composting toilets (no sewer hookup needed), produced our own methane for cooking from compost (no natural gas from Northwest Natural),and only wrote letters to communicate with people (no telephone bills). So why do we pay a stormwater fee if we generate no stormwater runoff from our property?

If the City wants to tax us in order to generate revenue needed to manage stormwater city-wide, fine - we have a small impact on stormwater runoff quality from city streets because we drive an automobile. But don't charge us a fee for stormwater based on our owning property, because our property does not contribute runoff to the City stormwater system. (In fact, I often sweep the gutter in front of our house, and occassionally do the entire block because the City street sweeping program is inadequate - so maybe the City should pay me for this service!) The idea that we should pay a discounted rate for a service we don't use is not logical.

Thanks Sam - that's our point of view.

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