Green infrastructure: Possible, beneficial and fundable

Infiltration swale at Macomb County’s office building.
Infiltration swale at Macomb County’s office building.

The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments is conducting a series of workshops on green infrastructure. The first one was May 7. The June 10 workshop will talk about constructing green infrastructure facilities, with an emphasis on roads.   It will include details on actual implementation, including challenges and successes covering construction details, contractors, public engagement, identifying unique opportunities, and maintenance obligations.

On July 21, SEMCOG will focus on local codes and ordinances to support green infrastructure implementation in your community in addition to outlining a collaborative process for long-term success.

Participants will tour sites in Detroit and Southfield on August 20 to learn about implementing policies consistent with the regional green infrastructure vision. Stops will include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Outdoor Adventure Center, Milliken State Park, City of Detroit bioretention lots, and the innovative techniques in the City of Southfield.

Here’s more information about the SEMCOG events.

The Environmental Protection Agency has published an online guide to funding green infrastructure. It describes eight different ways to fund stormwater management, giving the advantages and disadvantages of each and some good examples.

Taxes and general funds

  • Advantages: A consistent, reliable source of funds.
  • Disadvantages: Competition from other government functions; inequity

 

Fees for service or developer impact fees

  • Advantages: Funds are allocated directly to the project
  • Disadvantages: Doesn’t address systemic problems

 

Stormwater utilities

  • Advantages: Dedicated funding source; addresses systemic conditions
  • Disadvantages: Cost of administration; public opposition

 

Credits and incentive programs

  • Advantages: Shifts responsibility to private parties
  • Disadvantages: Foregone revenue

 

“Green” Bonds

  • Advantages: Immediate impact
  • Disadvantages: Have to be paid back; may require voter approval

 

Grants

  • Advantages: New money
  • Disadvantages: Competitive. Often a one-off project

 

Loans

  • Advantages: Available immediately
  • Disadvantages: Have to be repaid

 

Public-private partnerships

  • Advantages: Leverages government resources; shared risk
  • Disadvantages: Perceived loss of public control

 

The publication offers some good examples of stormwater utilities. Several cities charge a flat quarterly fee per household, with some offering a reduced fee for senior residents. They may charge non-residential properties based on impervious surface coverage and some also apply that standard to residential. Typical annual costs for houses range from $25 to $50 a year.

 

There are also some good examples of credits and incentives. Portland, Ore. charges remediation fees, giving credits on a sliding scale based on the percentage of stormwater handled on a property, up to 100 percent of the fee. The RainScapes Rebate Program in Montgomery County  gives rebates of up to $2,500 for residences and $10,000 for businesses who use specific design criteria to reduce stormwater runoff, funded by the County’s Water Quality Protection Charge.