New stormwater fees set to address flooding, drain problems

EVERETT — A new stormwater fee is set to appear on next year’s tax statements for about 4,800 property owners in unincorporated Snohomish County.

That and other changes to stormwater fees were approved by the County Council on Monday.

The county’s Surface Water Management Division is expected to receive an extra $1 million per year as a result. The money will pay for projects to lessen problems with drainage and flooding.

“It will finally allow us to start addressing some of these unfunded mandates,” county public works director Steve Thomsen said.

Thomsen was referring to meeting obligations such as federal rules for protecting salmon and limiting storm runoff.

The county stormwater fee, pre-expansion, applied to about 95,000 ratepayers with property in unincorporated areas. The newly added properties mostly lie in three areas: east of Monroe along the U.S. 2 corridor; east of Oso in the Darrington area; and south of Stanwood near the mouth of the Stillaguamish River.

Tribal areas, forest lands and Hat Island are exempt.

The rate is $90 per year for a single-family home. On farmland, the annual fee is $90 per parcel. For commercial properties, it can range from $27 to $270 per quarter acre, depending on the amount of impervious surface, such as buildings or pavement.

Chuck Hazelton, chairman of the Stillaguamish Flood Control District, supported the changes. Hazelton said he’s working to draft a list of flooding and drainage projects to help parts of the county that haven’t always received the attention they deserve.

The County Council approved expanding the fee-collection area with a 4-1 vote. Councilman Ken Klein objected, saying he wanted more assurances about the improvements property owners in the Darrington could expect for their money. Klein also said the fee was unfair to poorer parts of the county, like Darrington, because it’s the same regardless of a property’s value.

A vote had been anticipated Nov. 10 but was postponed until Monday to get an opinion from the county’s Agricultural Advisory Board.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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