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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 27, 2007 10:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was Fighting City Hall. The next post in this blog is As time goes by. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Knock a few bucks off

Portlanders apparently have got only a few more days to register for sewer discounts if the stormwater off their roof doesn't run into the city's sewer system. The official version of what you need to know is here.

Meanwhile, a knowledgeable reader sends along these thoughts about the program:

This is the fulfillment of Sam "The Tram" Adams' promise to bring back the flawed stormwater discount program. Flawed because the majority of the costs of stormwater management (70-90%) are related to runoff from the public right of way, not from private property (large impervious areas such as parking lots do add to the costs, but they are already billed based on area).

This new effort is estimated to cost a few million to start up and maintain. If homeowners (there are discounts for business properties as well) claim that their roof runoff soaks into the ground on their own property, they can get a discount. Homeowners who can't do the simple downspout disconnections or afford more elaborate infiltration systems won't get the discount. Homeowners on the hilly west side, with unstable soils that are prone to sliding if saturated, are unlikely to qualify.

Stormwater rates will go up for everybody to pay for this, so getting the discount basically keeps the stormwater portion of your bill about the same as it was before the rate hike. Those who don't get the discount will be paying for those who do.

Policy analysts such as Dan Vizzini at BES know this is bad policy, but they have their marching orders. Because we all benefit from stormwater management, it really should be funded through a tax of some sort. But because of the property tax limitation, regulatory magic somehow transforms this into a user fee....

I try not to rant and rave about the Big Pipe (makes the tram and other questionable expenditures look like chump change), but at least this offers a way for some Portlanders to ease the pain a little. Of course, those who don't qualify are just SOL.

Comments (10)

Flawed because the majority of the costs of stormwater management (70-90%) are related to runoff from the public right of way, not from private property

Hmmm....my roof covers a little bigger area than my house, so say 1600 square feet, plus driveway, patio and walkways, a total of about 3000 square feet. The sidewalk and half the street width amount to (6'+18')x50'=1200 square feet, less than half as much area.

You may be trying to say it costs more to treat the stormwater coming off the street than the relatively clean stormwater coming off private property. That may be true, but I think the purpose of the disconnect program is to reduce the volume going into the combined sewer system.

I live in an inner city infill house, and when it was built, the city that works required a dry well be put in the back yard for the rain gutters. Not a drop of roof water goes into teh storm sewer. Our "driveway" is a concrete apron from the garage about five feet in length. We have a sidewalk on the front yard a part of which might result in some stormwater runoff.

Do we get a break on our bill in recognition of the fact that we have never been on the storm sewer system? No. I applied for this slap in the face refund a month ago and have heard nothing since. I wouldn't be surprised if my application is dneied because our home does not appear inthe roster of homes that have disconnected from the storm sewers - having never been connected in the first place.

Every day I grow more and more impressed with teh city of portland. unfortunately, the impression is a negative one.

When I lived in Portland I disconnected from sewer and let gutter rain go into yard with run-off trays and received my discount until Sten came into being, than the discount went away. I argue over this for years and finally the discount came back...less than 1/2, another rip-off.

My understanding is that most of the east county houses were never allowed to have their roof run-off hooked to the sewer. But even knowing that the city makes you apply for the discount. (And I bet a lot of people don't know if their gutters are hooked to the sewer or a dry well.)

any property in the city, connected to the sewer or not, disconnected downspouts or not, contributes to the sewer.

the fundamental misunderstanding people have is that if they're not connected, water falling on the property somehow magically all goes into the ground, and never makes it to the street/sidewalk/drain/sewer/river.

it does.

in fact, there's no way to avoid some water from your city property going into the sewer, unless you collect every drop of water landing on it.

also, the law's constructed so that everybody (well, almost everybody) shares in the cost of installing & maintaining sewer infrastructure.

any property in the city, connected to the sewer or not, disconnected downspouts or not, contributes to the sewer.

Unless you've found a loophole in the law of gravity, NONE of the runoff from my property contributes to the "sewer". To do so, it would have to flow uphill.

I know someone who tried to get out of paying the stormwater fee on the ground that his property was next to the river, and his stormwater ran directly there. The city agreed that he wasn't using the system at all, but said that he still had to pay the fee.

has anyone looked into the cost of cleaning up the chromium that OHSU has dumped into the Willamette for decades?

Jack,

I know a lot of Portlanders got burned on this about 15 years ago with sewer assessments and this program seems too little, too late. However, the current efforts are being led by what is almost entirely a part-time team of employees who don't get benefits, and they are supported by volunteers who sign up to go out and help people disconnect downspouts to take advantage of the program. Volunteers include church groups, Girl Scouts, little league teams, etc. Your "knowledgeable reader" and yourself are throwing a lot of mud in the air. If you want to slam a commissioner, please be more pointed. You just splattered a lot of good citizens who are giving freely of their time trying to make a difference and help a good cause (clean rivers).

You just splattered a lot of good citizens

I did nothing of the kind. But you have just violated the comments policy here.


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