The Storm and Surface Water Utility (SSWU) provides a dedicated and reliable means of funding improvements and maintenance of the stormwater system in Bellingham. The SSWU fees allow the City to undertake new projects and enhance existing programs. A number of capital projects have been identified to control flooding, improve water quality, and enhance fish habitat. In addition, non-capital expenditures—such as planning, regulatory compliance, operations and maintenance, and public education—are important parts of the program. Fees also facilitate compliance with state and federal water resource regulations.
Permit fees and storm drainage fees
One-time fees cover the costs of permit review and capital improvements related to storm drainage for new development. They help ensure that “growth pays for growth.”
Although the level of this funding will decrease, the Street Fund is charged a fee by the SSWU based on the impervious surface of the City’s streets. WSDOT is also charged for the impervious surface of Interstate 5 within the City.
Grant and loan funding
Some SSWU projects are eligible for grants and low-interest loans through Washington’s State Revolving Fund, Public Works Trust Fund, and other programs. The utility can also issue revenue bonds, backed by rate revenues, to fund large capital projects. Each of these sources is evaluated and pursued by the City as appropriate.