Sequim looking at storm water utility

The Puget Sound Partnership's effort to clean up the state's signature water body by 2020 will include Sequim and its residents - more specifically, their money, the council was told at its Monday work session.

The agency created by the Legislature in 2007 released its "action plan" in December that aims to protect remaining unpolluted areas, restore damaged areas, stop water pollution at its sources and coordinate protection, restoration and cleanup efforts.

The challenge will involve all 12 counties that border Puget Sound: Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason, Thurston, Pierce, King, Snohomish, Skagit, Island, Whatcom and San Juan.

"Storm water is the biggest issue. So we'll be looking at a storm water utility," said Frank Needham, the city's capital projects manager.

Since the city discharges into the Strait of Juan de Fuca through its approved outfall, additional cost, time and effort will be required to comply with the partnership's action agenda, Needham wrote in a memo to the council.

The city of Sequim has "the opportunity to participate" in the Puget Sound cleanup effort and state funding is available for it as well as local funding, he said.

Needham said the person hired for the engineering position the city advertised in October will be part of developing the storm water utility proposal.

The Port Angeles City Council approved a storm water utility ordinance in November 2003.

It included a flat $3 monthly utility charge - since increased to $6 - for single-family houses and duplexes. Since it is a utility charge, it is paid by government agencies that don't pay property taxes.

Developed commercial and industrial properties are charged for impervious surfaces, up to a maximum of 10 4,000-square-foot units or $60 a month.

Vacant lots are not charged as long as they remain undisturbed, unless they are paved.

Since the utility fee is charged to the property owner, not the resident, it is collected by Clallam County and sent to the city of Port Angeles along with the semiannual property tax receipts.

Needham said Sequim's storm water utility would begin as an adjunct to the sewer utility but eventually stand as its own utility, being run by the existing utility manager and staff.

The charge would be collected through the city's existing utility billing process, he said.

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