Stormwater management is the effort to reduce runoff of rainwater or melted snow into streets, lawns and other sites and the improvement of water quality, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
In natural settings, rainwater or snow melt slowly soaks into the ground surface or flows overland into adjacent streams. In developed areas, natural surfaces are often replaced with hard surfaces such as streets, sidewalks, parking lots, homes or other similar structures. If not properly controlled, stormwater runoff from those areas can overwhelm streams and embankments and could cause major flooding, soil erosion and water pollution.
A growing awareness of just how vulnerable Pennsylvania’s waterways have become to damage from stormwater runoff has resulted in legislation requiring municipalities like Cranberry to obtain permits before discharging stormwater runoff into waterways like Brush Creek.
Stormwater System Maintenance
Cranberry’s current stormwater management system is extensive. Parts of it are privately owned, other parts are municipal property. All property owners are required to keep their stormwater facilities in working order at their own expense. Cranberry currently spends over a million dollars a year to maintain its portions of that system. Until recently, Cranberry financed its stormwater system and flood control maintenance from general tax revenues. However, with the state’s updated regulations, that expense has grown.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection has issued a series of updated regulations designed to reduce water pollution and protect property against flooding from stormwater. Those regulations must be implemented by 2023.
Stormwater Utility Rate
The Cranberry Township General Authority, formed in 2014 to undertake capital projects on behalf of the Township, imposed a Stormwater Utility Rate on all developed real estate in Cranberry starting January 1, 2020.
Proceeds from the rate, which will be collected by the Township through its monthly water/sewer/trash bills, will be used to maintain and enhance Cranberry’s stormwater handling resources, as required by state and federal law.
Options for Stormwater Rate Payments
The rate will help address increased stormwater requirements from the U.S. EPA and the PA Department of Environmental Protection. The line-item on sewer, water and trash bills will cost a single-family home $3 per month. Stormwater-only customers have the option of pre-paying the stormwater rate for the entire year. In addition, all customers, are offered a $1 per month credit on their total utility bill for using e-billing and autopay. This can be done by contacting Customer Service, Ph: 724-776-4806. Failure to pay the stormwater rate could ultimately result in a lien placed on the property.
Rate Increase Put On Hold
Due to the large impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the entire community, Township officials have decided to roll back plans to increase the stormwater fee in 2021.
Beginning in 2020, the General Authority of Cranberry Township imposed a stormwater utility fee to help offset the cost of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection mandates to manage the quantity and quality of stormwater. The fee was needed not only to cover the cost associated with the Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer System (MS4) permitting process, but also to improve stormwater infrastructure.
The rate for 2020 was $3 per equivalent residential unit, with plans to increase that number to $6 per ERU in 2021. However, recognizing the economic impact COVID-19 had on residents, businesses and non-profits, the General Authority took action to reduce that rate to $4 per ERU for 2021. This should result in thousands of dollars in savings, particularly to businesses and non-profits.
The full $6 rate will be implemented at the beginning of 2022 and will help cover costs already being spent on MS4 requirements.
This stormwater fee is listed on utility bills that may also include solid waste, sewer and/or water charges issued by the Township on a monthly basis. For questions or concerns about the Cranberry Stormwater Program, contact Jason Dailey, Director of Utilities, at 724-776-4806 ext. 1521.
More About the Cranberry Township General Authority
The Board of Supervisors created the General Authority to take advantage of programs and funding opportunities offered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to municipal authorities that assist in implementing municipal services and other activities permitted by the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act.
Rules & Regulations Stormwater Management Program Rules & Regulations
General Authority Meetings are listed here, Meetings of Boards & Commissions
|Keeping Residents Informed About Stormwater Management|
|Utility Bill Insert, November 2019. "In the Pipeline: New Customer Portal and New Bill"|
|Cranberry Today, Fall 2019. "New Stormwater Management Fee in the Pipeline"|
|Cranberry Today, Summer 2019. "Seeking Greater Clarity on Stormwater"|
|Cranberry Today, Summer 2018. "Financing New State and Federal Stormwater Requirements"|
|Cranberry Today, Spring 2018. "Townships Scramble to Update Stormwater Management Plans"|
|Cranberry Today, Fall 2017. "The Real Dirt on Brush Creek"|
|Cranberry Today, Spring 2016. "When Managing Stormwater, Cranberry Goes With the Flow"|
- What is stormwater and why is it a concern for Cranberry Township?
Stormwater commonly refers to runoff from rain, snow and ice melt. In the Township’s natural settings, stormwater slowly soaks into the ground surface or flows overland into adjacent streams. This process relies on an abundance of pervious surfaces such as grasslands, farmland, lawns, or other natural landscapes. In Cranberry Township, along with all other areas of the state, these natural surfaces are often replaced with impervious or hard surfaces such as streets, sidewalks, parking lots, homes or other similar structures. The result of an urbanized region is the reduced amount of natural area available to absorb stormwater. With an increase in impervious or hard surfaces, a larger amount of stormwater ends up flowing, at a swift rate, over these surfaces where it tends to collect chemicals and debris along the way. If not properly controlled, stormwater can overwhelm streams and embankments and cause major flooding in the Township, along with soil erosion and water pollution.
- What is the Township’s Stormwater Management Program?
Cranberry Township has established a stormwater management system which will manage the movement of stormwater throughout the Township’s entire stormwater system. The proposed Stormwater Management Program identifies costs that are being generated to collect and convey stormwater. Those costs are then dispersed among all Township landowners with developed property. Aging infrastructure and changing regulations require regular maintenance, replacement, and upgrade projects annually. A plan is needed to address the millions of gallons of stormwater that is processed by the Township.
- What is a base rate utility?
The proposed stormwater program is based on a base rate utility. This means that properties (both residential and non-residential) in the Township would be charged one base rate. This utility base rate has no relationship to property size but is in relation to costs necessary to operate the system. No singularly owned residential properties (single family homes, townhouses, etc.) would be proposed to pay anything more that the base user rate.
- Who pays the base rate utility?
Landowners pay the base rate utility?
- Are property owners who don’t use public sewer and water part of the base rate utility?
Well and septic landowners are being proposed to be a part of the program as the program is based on the stormwater system.
- Why not use the Township’s General Fund to absorb these costs?
If the Township would use its General Fund, which is mostly funded through taxes, then tax-exempt properties would not be contributing to the entire system’s maintenance and sustainability. Funding for stormwater would then have to compete with other important spending priorities. To ensure that stormwater maintenance remains a priority, it is important to implement an adequate and stable revenue source. If the Growing stormwater costs remain in the General Fund, it would either result in a cut in basic services and/or a tax increase.
- If the stormwater rate is to generate funds to replace the dollars currently coming from the General Fund, how are those General Fund dollars being re-purposed?
The General Fund dollars have not funded the stormwater program needs on a consistent basis nor fully funded the Program. The dollars have fluctuated over the years, depending upon the availability of capital dollars and the demand on General Fund dollars. It is anticipated the Township will need to consistently fund the Stormwater Management Program in the amount of $2M within the next several years. For 2020, the General Fund funds will continue to be assigned to stormwater projects. In 2021, the Stormwater Fee will start replacing those dollars from the General Fund. The General Fund will then be positioned to fund anticipated increased costs in public safety and road maintenance, the core purpose of the General Fund, without the need for a General Fund Tax increase.