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House Committee Hearing Highlights Stormwater Management Issues

The House Local Government Committee Tuesday held a hearing on Senate Bill 1261 (Erickson-R-Delaware) which would authorize the formation of municipal authorities to address stormwater management issues.

 Kelly Heffner, DEP Deputy for Water Management, testified in support of the legislation saying it would be a viable way to develop additional funding sources for needed upgrades to local stormwater infrastructure.   She specifically noted the bill would clarify ambiguities under existing law on whether authorities are authorized to assess fees for stormwater management.

John Brosious, PA Municipal Authorities Association, said his groups has interpreted existing law covering authorities to allow authorities to deal with stormwater management issues.  He noted forming an authority to manage stormwater issues could be a viable solution to the problem because they can dedicate fees specifically for that purposes.

Elam Herr, PA State Association of Township Supervisors, supported the legislation, but said his organization is concerned with the high cost of the unfunded environmental mandates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency relating to stormwater discharges.  He also said the legislation should be amended to add more specifics on the power given to stormwater authorities.

Patrick Starr, PA Environmental Council, supported the legislation saying the bill provides local governments with another option for managing stormwater.  The fewer options communities are given to manage stormwater the more expensive it becomes.

Matthew Ehrhart, PA Office- Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said his organization supports the legislation saying, “...As you know, municipalities are tasked with the difficult job of correcting local stormwater issues so as to protect human health and welfare while improving the quality of our rivers and streams. Pennsylvania has made significant commitments to control the water quality impacts of stormwater in its plan to meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup milestones.  This Blueprint to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from our local waterways is an essential if we hope to improve the waters of the Commonwealth and meet requirements to clean up the Bay.  These efforts will not be possible without the ability of municipalities to make stormwater management improvements.”

Mark Derham Bowen, Kleinschmidt Associates, encouraged the Committee to approve the legislation noting municipal authorities are generally better equipped to handle sewer and water engineering and construction than their member townships.

Robert Bender, North Wales Water Authority, also testified in favor of the bill highlighting the fact that authorities provide a long-term, stable way to management stormwater management systems.

Douglas Blazey, PA Stormwater Coalition, spoke in support of the legislation.

Rep. Tom Creighton (R-Lancaster), Majority Chair of the Committee, said it was unlikely the bill would become law this session because only eight voting days remain, but noted it was a good bill in need of refinement.  (Rep. Creighton is retiring at the end of this session.)

Rep. Bob Freeman (D-Lehigh), Minority Chair of the Committee, said stormwater management was a growing concern for many areas of Pennsylvania.  Rep. Freeman has introduced legislation in the past-- House Bill 1390-- as has Sen. Erickson-- Senate Bill 524-- calling for integrated watershed management plans to deal with stormwater issues.


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