A bill approved in the Pennsylvania Senate would allow local governments to enter into stormwater authorities.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Ted Erickson (R-PA-26), said municipal leaders are looking for tools to help them respond to the rising costs of stormwater management.
“After the last round of flooding we had about a year ago, it became evident that we needed to plan on a watershed basis, which means you have to cross municipal boundaries," Erickson said. "So if you had an authority that did that, it would be extremely helpful."
But it’s not clear if that is something local governments can do legally.
“There is a question as to whether or not the municipalities currently have the ability to form an authority to address stormwater management,” Erickson said. “This bill simply makes it very clear that they will have that authority.”
Forming authorities would help smaller municipalities which may have a hard time finding sufficient funding for stormwater management and planning. But the bill, which passed the state Senate 49-1, is not without its detractors.
“There are people who view this as eminent domain, and a way to raise taxes and so on,” Erickson said. “It has nothing in there about either of those issues. When you form an authority, you can limit the powers of the authority, so that’s up the municipalities.”
The bill summary states that stormwater authorities would help create a stable source of funding for municipal stormwater management planning and projects. These authorities could also provide incentives for private stormwater management that would reduce costs to local governments and taxpayers.
The same bill was introduced last year and passed by the Senate only to die in the House. It is now awaiting action in the House Committee on Local Government.