- Councillor's Corner
What is stormwater?
Stormwater is the rain runoff collected in major culverts under our roads, ditches, collection pipes, and storm ponds; this does not include private culverts at the end of resident’s driveways. This underground infrastructure maintained by the city ensures the water runoff is safely and strategically transported to protect roads, properties and local waterways to avoid flooding and erosion.
The stormwater fee is an annual charge on resident’s property tax bill, and this fee is devoted only to funding this imperative underground insfrastructure and does not go into general revenue. All City residents benefit from stormwater management.
Cross culvert on 8th line road replaced in Summer of 2018. These culverts contribute to stormwater management.
Will the City replace my driveway culvert since I am paying stormwater fees?
As the stormwater fee is to fund underground infrastructure around the City of Ottawa, such as culverts underneath the roadway, it does not fund the maintenance of private culverts at the end of resident’s driveways. As per the City’s Private Approach By-Law (No.2003-447, Section 15), the maintenance and replacement of a private approach, including culverts, curbs, and headwalls, is the responsibility of the property owner.
The City of Ottawa does have the right to access the ditches and culverts along privately owned land and is able to alter ditches to address drainage issues as long as they are alongside City roads or carry water flow from public lands. Some alterations often include changes to ditch depth or width, or the replacement of stormwater infrastructure.
Why am I paying a stormwater fee?
Historically, all properties were paying for stormwater. Prior to alamgamation, Township of Osgoode residents paid a tax levy for stormwater services on regional roads such as Bank Street (Regional Road 31) and Mitch Owens (Regional Road 8) to the Regional Municipality of Ottawa Carleton (RMOC). They also paid for stormwater services on local roads within the Township of Osgoode through their road taxes. Meanwhile, City of Ottawa residents paid for stormwater services as part of their rate structure on their municipal water bill.
In 2001, the Township of Osgoode amalgamated with the City of Ottawa.
After amalgamation, stormwater charges for all former Township of Osgoode and City of Ottawa residents was moved entirely to the City of Ottawa water bill. The transition Board overseeing the implementation of the amalgamated City of Ottawa commissioned a report which provided recommendations on how an amalgamated city could assess properties for stormwater costs. That report recommended cost collection through either the general tax rate or a specific fee charged as a line item on your tax bill. The Corporate Services and Economic Development Committee, who was dealing with the issue at the time, ignore the report and chose neither option.
Relying on private wells and therefore not having a water bill, former Osgoode Township residents were not contributing to stormwater services to the City of Ottawa. This meant that many roads were not receiving the necessary funds to maintain proper stormwater infrastructure, which led to roads like Mitch Owens becoming more damaged with flooding and more frequent potholes during the spring thaw.
In 2013, the Infrastructure Master Plan addressed many stormwater issues within rural communities, but the majority of the changes were deferred until after the 2014 Municipal Election. This meant that decisions that could address the issue were further ignored and postponed.
The City of Ottawa conducted a widespread consultation process in March and April 2016 to solicit input from residents on options for new rates for water, wastewater and stormwater services to correct the problem. This included consultations with stakeholder groups, eight public meetings across the City, and an on-line survey. Residents also provided input to the City via email. Staff were able to develop a new rate structure based on their findings and the feedback provided from residents across the city.
What is the charge for the stormwater fee?
In October of 2016, the City of Ottawa approved the new Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater rate structure to replace the old billing system. I did vote for this stormwater fee, once it was negotiated to a smaller and reasonable charge. If I would have voted against it, it still would have been implemented but would be at a much higher rate than what is being implemented today.
The impact of the new stormwater rate for residents will depend on certain criteria including the classification of the property, service area, and service type instead of the consumption of water. The stormwater fee will be phased in over the next four years, to allow non- connected property owners time to adjust. In 2017, the charge will be at 25% for the total fee, with progressive increases of 25% over a 4 year period.
How does the stormwater fee benefit me?
The funds will go towards building better roads by improving the infrastructure below the roads and making the roads much more stable. In a way, the stormwater infrastructure functions similarly to a house foundation: no matter how much money you use to build a house, it will quickly fall apart, sink and experience water damage without a proper foundation. Both storm water infrastructure and a house foundation are vital to ensure the structure’s longevity.
The new stormwater drainage maintenance fee will result in better road conditions in the future, as the improved major underground drainage infrastructure will reduce erosion of major regional roads and thus more likely to be maintained in the future. With the new charges on non-connected property owners, greater lengths of former regional roads and local roads are being improved.