City seeks to create new agency to overhaul storm drainage system

Showers could ramp up over the coming days.
Showers could ramp up over the coming days.(HNN File)
Updated: Feb. 19, 2020 at 1:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city wants to take on a massive new endeavor to overhaul its storm drain system.

The goal is to eventually capture the island's runoff and turn it into drinking water.

The system would be managed by a new storm water utility and that would mean a new monthly bill for all property owners.

It’s a long-term proposal to make sure there is enough water for the one million people who live on Oahu.

“We have some other pressures and we have some other projections that we’re concerned about," said Ross Sasamura, the county’s Department of Facility Maintenance Director. “And that is continued development to the point where we are beginning to worry about our water supply, drinking water supply.”

The city is starting the process by figuring out how to pay for it and asking the public for feedback.

City officials say the current cost of managing the island’s storm water is almost $92 million a year.

Currently, it is all being collected through property taxes.

County officials want to impose a new fee.

“A storm water utility is a way for a municipal government to actually charge for and receive funding that helps to make improvements to the storm drain system,” Sasamura said.

Sasamura said possible fees are still being reviewed. But basically, “the more that’s paved, the more that’s paid.”

For example, residential properties would pay anywhere from $5 to $28 a month.

Giant buildings like a shopping center may have to pay nearly $2,000 a month.

Sasamura said credits or rebates can be offered to all property owners if they put in additional green infrastructure or remove pavement.

“As we develop, as we create more what we call impervious surfaces, pavements, concrete, that tend to shed water and push water off into the street, push water off into drainage systems that eventually empty water out into streams, rivers and near shore waters in the ocean. We’re not giving that water the opportunity to recharge drinking water supply,” he said.

Sasamura said a decision on the fees is expected by the end of summer.

He said it will still have to go through city council for their approval.

The city is holding more community meetings over the next three weeks, including one Wednesday night at Castle High School from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For the full schedule, click here.

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