Kokua Line: Aerial photos provide data for possible storm runoff fee on Oahu
Regarding the potential stormwater fee, how will they decide how “impervious” your property is?
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Question: Regarding the potential stormwater fee, how will they decide how “impervious” your property is? They’d better not use building permits. Too many cheaters out there with unpermitted structures.
Answer: The city says it can measure the amount of impervious cover on each Oahu property using aerial imagery from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
A summary of the Aug. 19 meeting of the Storm Water Utility Stakeholder Advisory Group, which the city’s Department of Facility Maintenance formed to study a potential fee-based stormwater utility on Oahu, explains the process:
“Geographic information system (GIS) mapping and aerial imagery is used to calculate impervious area in square feet. That information combined with land-use information is used to calculate some unit for charting — either a set number of square feet of impervious surface, or a calculated measure called an ‘equivalent residential unit’ or ‘ERU.’ These units then form the basis for calculating fee proportionality.”
So, no, building permit records alone would not be used to measure how much of a property is covered by hard surfaces, such as buildings and pavement, which contribute to storm runoff because they prevent rainwater from soaking into the ground and replenishing Oahu’s aquifer.
The stormwater utility, if approved, would fund “the services and investments needed to maintain Oahu’s storm water infrastructure, and protect Oahu’s streams and nearshore waters,” according to stormwaterutilityoahu.org.
News of this proposal, which would impose a separate fee for work that is now covered primarily by property taxes, has generated numerous questions to Kokua Line. Here are answers to a few of the most common:
Q: Who would pay this?
A: All Oahu property owners, including ones exempt from Honolulu County property taxes, according to the website. The monthly fee would be proportional and depend in part on how well the property mitigates storm runoff.
Q: How much would it be?
A: It’s impossible to say at this point. The most detailed estimates we could find were in a Jan. 13 presentation to the advisory group, which said that a median-size residence of 3,800 square feet might initially pay from $26.33 to $37.08 a month (or $315.96 to $444.96 a year), depending on how the fee was structured and the breadth of expenses the stormwater utility covered. However, the presentation emphasized that “costs are preliminary draft estimates for illustration only.” It also included rough estimates for other property types and sizes. Find links to the presentation and summaries of the advisory group’s other meetings at 808ne.ws/swadv.
Q: Would this be under the Public Utility Commission?
As Kokua Line listed Thursday (808ne.ws/130kline), public meetings on the proposal begin next week.
My husband and I come to Honolulu every year for our December-to-March winter break from Idaho. Often I hear sirens and think, “Thank heavens that is not for me!” The night of Jan. 8, I heard the sirens and thought, “Thank heavens they are coming for me!” Thank you to the firemen and EMS attendants who rushed to the hotel and to my rescue during a health crisis following our 911 call. I didn’t get the names of the firemen, but EMS attendants Barry and Adam rushed me to The Queen’s Medical Center, where the ER staff was waiting to take over. Thank you to all the firemen, EMS and ER staff for your care and kindness during these lifesaving moments. Happily, I am blessed to be back on vacation now. — Marcia Lloyd, Pocatello, Idaho
Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email email@example.com.