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North Bend sets stormwater utility rates for houses, businesses

NORTH BEND - Homeowners and commercial property owners in North Bend should take note that starting July 1 they will be paying a new utility bill.

In order to comply with regional requirements and new laws, the city last week established a stormwater utility that will go into effect this summer. This is the first time city residents will pay for a stormwater utility. Funds will be used for paying costs associated with planning, constructing and maintaining the city's new stormwater management plan.

Since water that flows off hard surfaces in this area eventually ends up in Puget Sound, if left untreated or managed improperly, the water can carry pollution that could harm fish. The utility is, in part, a result of the 1999 National Marine Fisheries (NMFS) report that listed chinook salmon and bull trout as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The NMFS challenged the Puget Sound region to reverse trends that endanger salmon and trout. In addition, laws were created to protect the Puget Sound water system.

Utility rates will be $12.36 per month for single-family residences. This includes a stormwater rate of $9.86, plus a floodplain management rate surcharge of $2.50. The floodplain rate will be charged to further address flooding issues related to surface water and stormwater within the city. Currently, most cities on the Eastside, as well as unincorporated King County, already pay a stormwater utility fee. North Bend's rates are comparable to these other cities.

City officials have stated the importance of establishing a stormwater management plan and utility because if the city lacks this, it will be refused flood prevention funding.

"State law requires cities to handle their own internal drainage problems, and if we don't handle our own drainage problems, then we aren't eligible state or federal grants for flood reduction," explained Sara Barry, special projects coordinator for North Bend. "In other words if you aren't taking care of your back yard to take care of the drainage problems on the local level, then don't bother going to the county, state and federal government to ask them to help you out."

New single-family homes will be charged a one-time fee of $550 for the utility, then a monthly fee after the home is occupied. Commercial buildings, which generally have more paved surfaces, will be charged the $12.36 rate per every 2,920 square feet of impervious surface on the property.

The stormwater management plan was designed to address drainage, flooding problems and erosion within the city, improve water quality and lessen the environmental impacts of the untreated water. To achieve this, several construction projects, including culvert installation, will be conducted over the next 10 years, at a cost of $2 million. Additional phases of the project will be enacted after that time, to adjust for further growth.

The stormwater plan is available for viewing at City Hall, 211 Main Ave. N., or online at www.ci.north-bend.wa.us. If North Bend property owners have questions, they can call the city at (425) 888-1211.

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