BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – After decades of failing to meet the Clean Water Act standards, Baton Rouge could face penalties from the federal government.
“For decades now for decades and decades now this community has not been living up to the task of managing our stormwater, we have not passed audits by the Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA,” said City-Parish Chief Communications Officer Mark Armstrong.
The metro council voted last week to create the Stormwater Public Utility District which could tack on fees to your bill in order to ward off fines. Councilman Dwight Hudson was the only vote against the plan.
“I voted in opposition to the creation of the district for two reasons. 1) There has been no community engagement about this idea. The creation of a department and the subsequent passage of a fee should come with a healthy amount of public input and debate. 2) The administration has not done a good job in explaining why we need three separate departments which all have a drainage function. At City Parish, we currently have the Department of Transportation and Drainage and the Department of Maintenance. There is no plan to reduce these departments or change their scope with the creation of the Stormwater utility. The Utility will duplicate the functions of these departments. I find that problematic and would have preferred to see that addressed prior to the passage of the district,” Hudson said. There is an opportunity to improve this district and have it make a positive impact on the community. I encourage the administration to aggressively engage the community prior to the eventual fee item being placed on the agenda.”
After years of failing to properly manage drainage, Armstrong saidBaton Rogue could be facing punishment from the federal government.
“That can has been kicked down the road and we’ve kicked it up against the wall at this point and now we have to take action,” Armstrong said. “We’re in a unique opportunity here to control our own destiny and to choose our own plan that will be affordable and equitable and produce results.”
Armstrong couldn’t speak on what federal action could be coming.
“But I can point to our last time we fell under federal enforcement action and we are still under it right now and that has to do with our sewage and every single year we have an automatic increase in our sewage rate of four-and-a-half percent,” Armstrong said.
The Stormwater Public Utility District does not have funding yet, and the public will likely be ordered to pay fees to finance the project.
“Our estimate is that we need to be spending $40 million a year, we are only spending $ 9 million” Armstrong explained. “Just to put that in perspective, you’re talking about half of the budget of the Baton Rouge Police Department.”
Armstrong said next week the city parish will be going over the Stormwater Utility District plan with the public, including the possible fees and their amounts.