published Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Millions being pumped into Chattanooga's stormwater system


by Cliff Hightower
Pam Ladd
Pam Ladd

WATER QUALITY FUNDS

Millions of dollars have streamed into Chattanooga's water quality, or stormwater, fund since fees were initiated two years ago.

• Fiscal year 2010: $13.5 million

• Fiscal year 2011: $14.5 million

• Fiscal year 2012: $15 million (projected)

Source: City of Chattanooga records

Chattanooga will have collected almost $43 million in water quality fees by the end of next fiscal year after raising stormwater fees two years ago.

The money has paid for repairs to drainage ditches, water tests in creeks that flow through the city and planning.

"It's building up a fund that will allow us to take on some major projects," Mayor Ron Littlefield said Friday. "We have parts of the city that have been in a holding pattern for decades."

The nonresidential water quality -- or stormwater -- rate is scheduled to rise automatically when property tax bills go out in October. The increase is part of Littlefield's plan to ramp up the commercial stormwater fee to the same level as the residential rate within five years.

In April 2010, the City Council raised the residential rate to $115.20 a year, up from either $24 or $36 a year. Nonresidential rates, based on the size of the facility, cover businesses, churches and institutions such as schools.

Tony Kinder, an environmental engineer for the city, said major work that has been completed includes restoration of drainage ditches on Sterling Avenue and Chapman Road. The Sterling Avenue project fixed massive problems that affected the Chattanooga Golf and Country Club, he said.

An upcoming project that will cost millions of dollars the rehabilitation of a stormwater pipe that drains St. Elmo, Kinder said. Design of the project is about 45 percent complete, he said.

The city also is planning green infrastructure projects with porous pavement and rain gardens to absorb stormwater runoff on Anderson Avenue, Brainerd Road and Dodson Avenue, Kinder said.

There will be work on the Brainerd Levee and studies of the city's 17 miles of drainage ditches built by the federal Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and '40s, he said.

City Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said stormwater fees have been use to resolve chronic flooding problems. Several car lots off Shallowford Road were flooded after heavy rains, but repairs to nearby drainage ditches fixed the problem.

"That was one of the problems we were able to take care of because we had the money for it," she said.

She said she has also seen smaller drainage-cleaning projects in neighborhoods around her district.

"The money's been well spent," she said.

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