Moscow residents and businesses will pay a monthly stormwater utility fee starting Oct. 1 with City Council approval.

The monthly fee was scheduled to be implemented this fiscal year, which started Oct. 1, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moscow Environmental Services Manager Kyle Steele told the Moscow City Council Public Works/Finance Committee Monday that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems Permit to the city in August 2019. The permit became effective in October of the same year.

He said the stormwater permit requires the city to develop and implement a comprehensive stormwater management program. Stormwater user fees would help pay for the program.

Steele presented a proposal Monday that would add a chapter to Moscow City Code allowing the city to establish a system of stormwater utility fees to fund and carry out the requirements of the permit over the next several years. The committee recommended approving the amendment and the full City Council will discuss the item at Monday’s regular council meeting.

Tyler Palmer, deputy city supervisor of public works and services, said the city’s activities regarding stormwater management have largely been reactionary and several requirements in the permit will be new to Moscow.

“It’s a big task setting up something like this, but it’s also something that we’re excited to engage in and think that it’ll be worthwhile as we try to minimize our impact on Paradise Creek,” Palmer said.

Palmer said in a text message that the average Moscow residential property owner can expect to pay less than $10 per month.

Residential property owners will fall into either a low-, medium- or high-impact tier based on the amount of impervious surface on an owner’s property. Palmer said last year impervious surfaces, such as driveways, rooftops and parking lots, contribute most to stormwater runoff.

Commercial property owners will also pay based on the amount of impervious surfaces on their land.

Steele said failure by the city to comply with the permit requirements could result in civil and criminal penalties under federal law. Civil penalties can range up to $37,500 per day per violation.

“This is not something the city has initiated of its own volition,” Councilor Art Bettge said. “These are requirements that have been handed down to us by the EPA that we have to comply with.”

Also at Monday’s committee meeting, Arts Program Manager Megan Cherry outlined potential proposals for major art events this year.

Artwalk, which is June 17 in downtown Moscow, could be modified because of COVID-19 to only include art displayed in host locations with no Main Street events, Cherry said.

She said Entertainment in the Park, which is July 1 and 8 at East City Park, could include restrictions like social distancing, face mask wearing and limited attendance. Or, if COVID-19 is under control, there could be no restrictions, Cherry said.

Community Events Manager Amanda Argona presented Moscow Farmers Market contingency plans as it related to entertainment performed at the market.

She discussed three options: not offering live entertainment, offering entertainment with restrictions or offering entertainment with no restrictions. She said the options are predicated on COVID-19 conditions and that it is possible to choose one option and then move to another one of the three options if COVID-19 conditions change.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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