State legislation that would have allowed the creation of a stormwater management utility for Baldwin County and its municipalities failed on the last day of the regular session, but officials involved with the proposed utility said they will …
State legislation that would have allowed the creation of a stormwater management utility for Baldwin County and its municipalities failed on the last day of the regular session, but officials involved with the proposed utility said they will reintroduce a revised bill next year.
The utility, which would have regulated and managed stormwater runoff thereby mitigating roadway and property flooding, began as a concept July 2006, gaining overwhelming county and municipal support over the course of the year.
The Baldwin County Stormwater Working Group was formed that summer, comprised of state and local officials and watershed organizations, to examine the feasibility of a regionally-minded – rather than each government enacting separate measures - stormwater utility.
AMEC, an international consulting firm that specializes in environmentally-related projects, was contracted by the working group to form a practical plan responding to a growing need for controlling rain water upon the county’s burgeoning roadway infrastructure with the all-intensive purpose of protecting natural and coastal resources.
Stormwater, which cannot penetrate impervious surfaces such as streets and highways, collects into runoff that flows into streams, carrying pollutants along the way, or has the potential to flood properties – the latter, an emergent issue in communities surrounding new residential and commercial development, according to the working group.
12 of the county’s 13 municipalities, except Bay Minette, supported state legislation that was required to “enable” this locally based management utility funded by a small fee with an estimated cost range of $1.50 to $3.00 per month per residence or business.
Credits could be offered, for example, if a property was located in a rural section of the county versus urban or if the respective property lessened stormwater impact, officials with the group have said.
David W. Yeager, director of the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, who spearheaded the working group’s efforts and helped prod the enabling-legislation to this year’s session, said that last minute changes to the stormwater bill’s language raised concerns causing officials involved with the utility to pull the legislation.
Questions regarding the bill were called to attention by various business interests and also, by parties who wanted to make sure the legislation differentiated from a stormwater program formed in Jefferson County, which has stumbled in its effectiveness through the years.
Ultimately, Yeager said that he was concerned with passing hasty legislation that may have not encompassed all of the utility’s anticipated goals and also changed the legal extent to which it could regulate and manage stormwater.
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Steve McMillan, R-Gulf Shores and the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation, successfully passed the House, and reported favorably out of committee in the Senate, but action was “postponed due to the need to more carefully evaluate proposed changes to the amendment that were being considered,” according to Yeager.
Yeager noted that not passing the legislation this year far outweighs having “a potentially critically flawed bill,” but he added: “I am truly confident we can get it in next year.”