The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection modified its draft storm water permit for municipalities this week, but at least two municipal lobbies say it’s still an unfunded mandate.
The revised proposal modifies street sweeping, leaf management, and discharge monitoring for the 121 cities and towns covered under the permit. The revision would mean that municipalities will have the flexibility to determine the appropriate schedule for street sweeping and they won’t be required to implement a leaf pickup program.
As for the 49 smaller communities that would be covered under the permit for the first time, it asks them to prevent illicit connections to stormwater systems and to conduct basic inspection and maintenance of roads and drainage system.
That’s where the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and the Connecticut Council of Small Towns has a problem.
“DEEP’s revised draft still requires compliance by 49 towns currently not required to comply by EPA [Environmental Protection Agency],” Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, said. “These requirements would prove costly to smaller communities. The draft also requires towns to develop and implement changes to 1) local zoning laws, 2) plans of conservation and development, and 3) enact numerous legal ordinances to enforce the requirements of the revised draft permit. Such changes would be costly.”
While the municipal lobby said it is still reviewing the revisions, “the proposal is still a costly, unfunded state mandate on towns and cities,” and goes beyond what is required by the federal government, Maloney said.
“Given the state’s ongoing fiscal challenges, it is surprising that a state agency would continue to push for new mandates on Connecticut’s small towns,” Betsy Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said. “The proposed permit continues to go way beyond what is required under federal law without regard for how much it will cost and whether it will have any positive impact on water quality.”
However, DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee feels it strikes the right balance between local budgets and keeping the state’s waterways clean.
“After carefully reviewing the draft requirements we originally proposed with the concerns of local officials in mind, we have developed new approaches that will achieve environmental and public health objectives with lower costs for our municipal partners,” Klee said.
He continued: “We believe cities and towns can realistically and cost effectively implement the type of revised requirements we are now proposing — which will safeguard the quality of our waters and aquatic life and make certain they are attractive and safe for people to enjoy for swimming, fishing, and boating.”
All the interested parties will meet on Feb. 4 to discuss the revisions.
“With the revised draft permit as a starting point, it is our hope that discussions between DEEP staff and the organizations involved in this process will lead to agreement on the final permit language and requirements,” Klee said. “That would be the most efficient and effective way to put this new permit in place and to ensure future cooperation and compliance with it by cities and towns.”
Click here for a chart of the changes made between the first and second draft of the permit.