York County looks toward stormwater authority

Greg Gross

York County is inching closer toward creating a countywide authority to address stormwater runoff that makes its way to the Chesapeake Bay.

Exactly what the authority will look like remains to be seen, but county commissioners recently gave their approval to take the next step toward bringing it to fruition.

The thought behind the authority is simple: "Work together, get more done," said Nathan Walker, a senior water resources planner with Amec Foster Wheeler.

The commissioners vote unanimously at their weekly meeting on Wednesday to give the county planning commission permission to proceed with creating the regional authority.

The vote came after Walker and Felicia Dell, director of the planning commission, presented the results of a feasibility study on creating the York County Stormwater Authority.

Mandates: Federal mandates are requiring municipalities to do their part to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and reduce pollution. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acts as the regulatory authority, making sure states and municipalities are following the rules.

By forming an authority, there would be a uniform approach toward combating pollution issues plaguing the bay while hopefully reducing costs municipalities would incur if they opted to go it alone.

"The cost of these program will only mushroom," said Carroll "Skip" Missimer, a member of the Red Lion Municipal Authority. He was one of three local proponents to speak at the meeting.

Pollution-reduction projects vary by municipality and include stream restoration along the southern branch of the Codorus Creek and the reduction of stormwater runoff.

Only municipalities with an MS4 permit have to complete a reduction plan for pollution. The permit is a result of the federal Clean Water Act that required municipalities in urbanized areas to improve their stormwater management programs.

Thirty-four of the 72 municipalities in the county have MS4 permits, Dell said.

There was previously a 44-municipality-strong coalition in the county to address the mandates.

Moving forward: The planning commission will now be tasked with drumming up support among the municipalities and figuring out how to fund the authority.

Officials expect to address municipal officials about the plan, and a couple of options to fund the authority include using tax dollars or creating a fee structure the municipalities would pay, Dell said.

"All of that still has to be determined," she said.

Doug Hoke, the vice president commissioner, called the authority a good idea and added a single, uniform approach would be ideal for the county and its municipalities.

"This is an opportunity, and it's a big opportunity for us," Seth Noll, of Yoe, told commissioners.  "We see this as a quality of life issue."

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.