Explanation of City of Lincoln Proposed Stormwater Regulations – 31 July 2013

Proposed Stormwater Regulations

The City of Lincoln is proposing adoption of new ordinances to regulate stormwater runoff. The regulations are intended to improve the quality of stormwater (i.e. reduce the contaminants in stormwater) before it reaches our creeks and streams. However, these new requirements do not establish criteria to measure the intended water quality improvements, have the potential to delay the building and permitting process, achieve small benefit at great expense, create unnecessary maintenance issues and eliminate flexibility and creativity in improving the quality of stormwater runoff.

In 1972 Congress passed the Clean Water Act to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters.” Under this act cities must hold a permit (MS4) which requires them to regulate pollutants which flow into streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Instead of regulating the pollutants in stormwater the EPA now regulates stormwater itself as a pollutant and is requiring cities to establish regulations limiting the flow of stormwater into other bodies of water. To this date the EPA has not established standards of stormwater cleanliness and at least one federal court has determined that stormwater is not a pollutant that the EPA can regulate.

Responding to the threat of federal regulatory requirements, the City of Lincoln created the “Mayor’s Clean Water Program Task Force” to provide feedback to city staff as they developed stormwater management regulations in response to EPA requirements. The Committee listened to staff presentations and proposals before debating and voting upon a final report. The purpose of this report was to provide guidance to the staff as they developed stormwater requirements. Once the report was issued City staff developed draft “Regulations for Post Construction Stormwater Management.”

The proposed requirements will apply to all development and redevelopment projects of one acre or larger within Lincoln city limits and its extra territorial jurisdiction. It will require new developments and redevelopments to include stormwater management structures capable of detaining a 90th% rainfall event and 80th% rainfall event respectively. Less stringent standards were designated for redevelopment projects due to space requirements and the immense cost of retrofitting a project with stormwater management structures. Acceptable structures include:

  • Rain gardens
  • Bioswales
  • Constructed Wetland Ponds
  • Extended Detention Basins
  • Green Roofs
  • Permeable Pavement
  • Retention Ponds
  • Underground screening and filtration

As a result of mandating structural requirements the ordinances necessitate several legal and reporting requirements as well as penalties for failing to comply. These include:

  • A Post Construction Stormwater Management Plan (PCSMP) be approved by the Director of Public Works and Utilities as a prerequisite to approval of any planning application (preliminary plat, special permit, zoning change, etc.)
  • A PCSMP be approved by the Director of Public Works and Utilities as a prerequisite to obtaining a building permit
  • The owner of the property (developer, home owners association, etc.) is responsible for maintenance, inspection, and submitting an annual report of inspection results to the Director of Public Works and Utilities
  • The Director of Public Works and Utilities and the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District may enter the property to inspect
  • The City is responsible for replacement of stormwater management structures solely at its discretion
  • Owners who fail to maintain stormwater management structures are punishable by a misdemeanor  and  a fine of $100 to $500 per day

These proposed ordinances are scheduled to go before the Lincoln City Council at the end of August.