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33 This chapter provides guidance on fee mitigation options and strategies and is primarily geared toward airports currently being assessed stormwater fees (see Figure 10). The details on mitigation strategies may also be of interest to airports that are not yet paying fees but are interested in learning about options for fee mitigation and seeing additional examples of airport experiences. Based on literature and the interactions with the participating airports, there are five broad categories of strategies for mitigation: â¢ Section 3.1âBasic information about the local stormwater utilities and the fees an airport is paying â¢ Section 3.2âApproaches based on an airportâs land uses and stormwater management (e.g., using credit programs) â¢ Section 3.3âRecovery of fees through lease agreements â¢ Section 3.4âApproaches centered on awareness, outreach, and communication with utilities â¢ Section 3.5âApproaches that involve governance Although the strategies in category five are substantially more involved and not commonly used, they are included to acknowledge the full range of measures that have been used across the United States. Section 3.6 includes tools for airports anticipating stormwater fees. 3.1 Understanding the Local Utilities and the Fees Assessed If an airport is currently paying stormwater fees, it is important to know basic information about the local stormwater utilities and the fee structure. An airport should verify (1) all local stormwater utility names, websites, and points of contact; (2) that it is paying stormwater fees to these utilities; (3) how much the airport pays in stormwater fees; (4) how the airport is billed; and (5) how often the airport is billed. Compiling this information will entail some initial questions among airport departments/staff (operations, environmental, accounting). This is especially important when there is staff turnover. Airports should also make sure they know the following about the stormwater fees: â¢ The fee structure type (e.g., ERU, tiered, etc.); â¢ Whether the stormwater utility has a fee credit program, whether the airport is currently receiving credits, and, if so, how much; and â¢ Whether the utility already exempts runways or taxiways or other land uses such as highways and other roadways. C H A P T E R 3 Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees
34 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees This information may be verified through a point of contact at the stormwater utility and through information and manuals made available on the municipal or county website. Awareness of Fee Changes Finally, airports should remain up to date on any developments or news regarding the utility. Airports should locate and document where information can be found about the utility and its activities (e.g., meeting minutes) to be aware of new developments or possible future fee increases. If feasible, airport staff should attend utility meet- ings if they are open to the public. Staying up to date is important because any change to the fee structure could result in increased fees, possibly substantial ones. The frequency of fee review and possible increases is specified in the ordinance or resolution that established the stormwater program. This varies widely among states and municipalities. Some programs may review the fee annually, while others may review it less frequently (e.g., every three to five years). Airports should routinely check for updates regarding the utility as they may provide opportuni- ties for negotiation. Appendix D includes charts for documenting basics about the stormwater utility, fees, and any updates affecting the airport. 3.2 Facility/Infrastructure Related Strategies The mitigation strategies discussed in the following subsections focus on aspects of an airportâs physical facility, including â¢ Stormwater infrastructure, â¢ The amount of impervious area on its property, â¢ Parcels of the property and whether it can or should be consolidated, and â¢ Maintenance practices and needs for existing BMPs and needs for capital projects to improve stormwater infrastructure. The value and advantages of these strategies are that they â¢ Relate directly and immediately to ongoing airport activities; â¢ Speak to how the airport is already managing its runoff; â¢ Relate to existing aspects of the stormwater utility (e.g., credit programs), impervious area- based fee structures, and coordination of maintenance needs with what the utility may be able to offer; and TIP Utilities are required to provide notice for public comment and hearings for fee increases. Airports should consider formal participation in the comment and council approval process. Figure 10. Layout of guidebook.
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 35 â¢ Provide a basis for collaborating with the utility on strategies the utility may be able to help them with, working within the current structure of the utility. Optimizing Use of Utility Credit Programs Stormwater utility fee credit programs provide an effective and equitable option for reducing fees and have been used by several of the airports that participated in this study (see Examples 5â7). Storm water utilities generally produce credit program manuals that explain the criteria for awarding credits, including such information as require- ments for BMPs, application forms, documentation needs, how often inspections or reapplication is needed, and example calculations. Nevertheless, airports may face challenges in using credit programs. The keys to airports making use of credit programs are understanding the program elements (Figure 11) and addressing potential barriers to credit awards. Note that some utilities do not offer credit programs because they can be resource-intensive to administer. In addition, some utilities operate in political environments where stormwater fees are controversial, and offering credits or exceptions may erode the broad applicability of the program. In these cases, utilities may instead attempt to implement a simplified or efficient fee structure to keep stormwater utility costs down. If a utility does have a credit program, airports should thoroughly review the credit manual to become familiarized with the program and know which practices are awarded credits. Airports should also track credits. Appendix E includes a template for tracking credits. There are some potential barriers to receiving credits that airports should be aware of. Some are airport-specific while others apply generally to nonresidential properties. These barriers include the following: â¢ A lack of understanding of the credit program eligibility: It is not uncommon for a utility to offer a fee credit program in which only a small percentage of customers participate due to lack of awareness or understanding of the credit requirements. TIP If a utility does have a credit program, it should have a credit manual, which provides detailed information about what properties can receive credits for. Airports should thoroughly review the credit manual to become familiarized with the program and know which practices are awarded credits. Credit manuals are usually available on the utilityâs website. TIP Proactive communication with the stormwater utilityâs point of contact to discuss the program may help airport staff understand the utilityâs credit program and how it relates to airport stormwater management. During this communication it would be helpful to learn how much latitude is given when awarding credits. Figure 11. Common measures that can qualify for credits and were noted by participants in this project.
36 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees â¢ Credit elements that are not easily applied in an airport enviÂ ronment: Stormwater fee credit programs may focus on BMPs that are not applicable to airports and may conflict with FAA require- ments regarding wildlife hazards (e.g., structural BMPs that promote standing water or involve vegetation that can attract wildlife). Other credit programs focus on stream/river maintenance and improve- ment or the expansion of natural areas that might also attract wild- life. Additionally, some credit programs may be geared toward small businesses and homeowners (see Example 6) and promote BMPs that are not useful for large properties (e.g., rain gardens, rain barrels). The BMPs that airports do use may or may not be included in the BMPs for which credits are awarded. Even at some airports that have extensive vegetated areas surrounding the runways and taxiways, those vegetated areas are sometimes excluded from consideration by the utilityâs credit program. â¢ Prohibitive costs or labor associated with obtaining credits: While some fee credit programs have elements that are applicable to airport properties, there are instances in which the cost of obtaining the credit may be greater than the amount of the credit itself (see Examples 5 and 7). There may be considerable staff time and documentation required to apply for credits. Also, some options that qualify for credits may necessitate the construction of new airport infrastructure, which may cost more than the credits to be awarded. â¢ Significance of revenues for the utility: Airports that have been paying stormwater fees and have not previously applied for cred- its may find the utility relies heavily on the large contributions provided by airports (sometimes over 50 percent of the entire utility budget) to execute their programs. Some utilities may be concerned about the loss of revenue from airport credits and be less supportive of maximizing credits. If credits are legally avail- able, airports should consider offering a phase-in approach to ease the effects on the utility. In addition, there may be other impor- tant programs interesting to airports that may be negotiable in lieu of the credit, such as plan review or regulatory responsibility delegation. Accurate Accounting of Property and Impervious Area Where fees are based on impervious area or otherwise incorporate measurements of airport property, a good practice for airports is to make sure this information is as accurate as possible. Accurate account- ing of property can be even more advantageous to airports that pay parcel-based stormwater fees. Airports may be able to identify parcels that can be consolidated or restructured to reduce fees. Accurate Determination of Impervious Area Accurate and up-to-date documentation of airport property, boundaries, and impervious area can help airports ensure that they TIP Airports may need to work with storm- water utilities to demonstrate the effectiveness of the airportâs stormwater infrastructure to justify what credits should be awarded. This may require demonstration of runoff volume and flow control and BMP performance for water quality. If the stormwater utility awards credits for use of GSI BMPs, airports could consider exploring the viability of GSI as part of anticipated future projects. TIP Airport representatives could discuss with the stormwater utility about available guidance to help identify the documentation needed for a credit application. Airport staff could begin by collaborating internally to locate and assemble as much relevant documenta- tion as possible and then discuss with the utility to discern what assistance may be available from the stormwater utility regarding the application process. TIP In some cases, consulting engineer sup- port may be needed, and the airport may need to decide if the cost is warranted, considering anticipated fee reductions. If new or retrofits to infrastructure are needed for credits, airports may not want to take immediate advantage of credits. However, these costs can sometimes be offset if the stormwater improvements are included as part of larger projects. This approach can be incorporated into the airportâs master planning.
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 37 Use of Credit Programs Example 5 One medium-hub airport pays fees to a stormwater utility with a credit program. The program offers credits for both control of peak flow and for stormwater quality improvement. Engineering designs for BMPs must be provided, and credits must be recertified every year. Applicants can receive credits up to 100 percent. All stormwater BMPs are potentially eligible for some amount of credit. The airport, however, has not yet completed the application process to start receiving credits due to limitations in staff time and resources. The utility noted an additional hurdle to use of the credit program: one of the most challenging aspects of the stormwater credit application process for applicants is compiling the necessary historical engineering information for their stormwater BMPs, such as design blueprints. In the absence of these records, applicants sometimes choose to hire consultants to reverse engineer the design specifications for their BMPs so that credits can be assigned. In such cases, the applicant would typically evaluate whether there is a potential return on investment to moving forward with the credit application. Example 6 A municipal airport pays fees to a county stormwater utility with a credit program that allows for up to 40 percent fee reduction. However, the airport faces challenges in using this program. Several measures that would make the property eligible for credit, such as increasing the stream bank buffer area, are not feasible at the airport because of concerns over wildlife attractants. Also, for the airport to receive credit for more doable measures (e.g., watershed stewardship or training), tenants must be involved. Because the airport tenants do not reimburse the airport for stormwater fees, they have little incentive to participate. For example, the airport stenciled fish on storm drains. When the airport applied for a credit, the utility rejected the application because airport tenants did not also participate by stenciling fish on storm drains on the property they lease from the airport. The credits are also geared toward homeowners. When the fee was established, the general community saw it as a tax. As a result, the utility developed several types of BMPs (e.g., rain barrels) that homeowners can implement for credits but that are not applicable to large properties such as airports. The airport also is at a disadvantage because they were built before the inception of the stormwater fees; the airport did not have the opportunity to incorporate design practices to reduce impervious area. Example 7 A small hub airport initially received a 20 percent reduction in their stormwater fees out of a possible 50 percent for the following: a 10 percent fee reduction for parcels with impervious area that are covered by the stateâs general industrial permit; a 10 percent reduction for the airportâs largest parcel for stormwater infrastructure that control runoff flow and quantity. The credit was subsequently raised several percent for the largest parcel for non-structural stormwater BMPs and water quality. The stormwater utility has worked with the airport to explore ways for the airport to receive as much credit as possible. However, there have been challenges in applying the credit program to the airportâs stormwater system. The program is not always clear about which properties and BMPs qualify for credits. There have also been some concerns with measures proposed by the city, including wildlife hazards and property conditions. Measures to increase credits would involve construction of new stormwater infrastructure. However, if the airport were to undertake new stormwater infrastructure projects, the cost would exceed the savings from credits. The airport does receive some stormwater quality credits but feels that they should receive more based on the results of compliance sampling.
38 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees are billed correctly. This may be particularly important for ensur- ing that impervious area is not double counted if the airport spans more than one jurisdiction and pays fees to more than one utility (see Example 8). Airports can ask to be involved in the fee assessment process. They can review impervious area calculations with the utilities and might also request that the utility perform an on-site survey to check against the calculations. If the airport has adequate staff availability, they might consider calculating their impervious area independently and provid- ing the calculations to the utility. TIP Ensure impervious area calculations are current and accurate. Review utility estimates annually or bi-annually or when there are changes in either the airportâs impervious area or how the utility calculates impervious area. Request a field visit from the stormwater utility for verification of calculations. Accounting of Impervious Area Example 8 A large hub airport in the eastern United States has property that spans six juris- dictions, and it pays stormwater fees to two stormwater utilities: a county water authority and a municipality. The airport has worked through the utilitiesâ credit programs to maximize credits and reduce fees. The airport pays over $400,000 per year in stormwater fees. This includes reductions from credits. Without the reduc- tions, the airport would pay over $1 million per year. The airport has found it useful to actively participate in the fee assessment process by calculating their impervious area and providing the calculations to the stormwater utilities. This ensures that impervious area is not double counted and builds good rapport with the utilities. Property Parcel Configuration In some instances, it may make sense for an airport to restructure parcels or strategically reduce impervious area within parcels into several smaller parcels based on development plans, designated activities, or the facilitation of leasing land (see Example 9). This can be accomplished through creating a binding site plan or record of survey for sectors of the airport. If stormwater fees are charged by the parcel, airports can verify that they have identified all parcels that they own and work to consolidate them, if possible. Consolidation may be time- consuming and will involve surveying and submission of paperwork to the municipality or county, but it can result in substantial savings (see Example 10). Requesting Services from the Utility Airports paying stormwater fees should discuss with the utility whether the utility has the authority to provide stormwater management services to the airport and, if so, which services would be most appropriate. For instance, services from the stormwater utility might be appro- priate on the landside but not appropriate on the airside because of the need for specialized staff training. If the utility can provide services to the airport, it would not reduce the stormwater fee, but it may offset some of the airportâs stormwater management costs. Most of the airports that participated in this project noted that they did not receive storm- water services from the local utility. Services are more likely to be available if the airport is
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 39 owned by the jurisdiction associated with the utility rather than another jurisdiction or a separate airport authority. In some cases, the utility may not be able to provide stormwater services to the airport because the airport is considered commercial property rather than public. Even if the utility cannot provide routine services to the airport, the airport may be able to contract services from the utility for certain situations, such as when specialized equipment is needed. Some airports participating in this project indicated that they did not request services from the utility because stormwater maintenance at airports requires specialized training. Although this is true for the airside, some airports have been able to receive services from the utility on the landside, where BMP maintenance does not differ greatly from maintenance at other property types. Such maintenance may include mowing, trash removal, channel maintenance, etc. In addition, the utility may have interest in airport stormwater systems that manage runoff originating outside the airport boundaries. Parcel-Based Fees Example 9 A large general aviation airport pays fees to a utility with a commercial fee structure that is tiered by percent impervious area per parcel and billed per quarter acre. One of the airportâs larger parcels was just below the upper limit for a tier. A tenant within that parcel proposed a 1-acre facility expansion that would have brought that parcel over the threshold and into the next tier. This would have resulted in an annual increase of more than $40,000 for that parcel. Because the stormwater fee increase would have been well above the potential lease revenue from the proposed project, the airport had to reject the proposal and the tenant relocated. If the proposed development had taken place in a smaller parcel, the rate per acre would have been higher but applied to a smaller acreage, resulting in a much smaller stormwater fee increase. Subsequently, the airport removed some underutilized pavement within that parcel to allow some future expansions without pushing the tier threshold. Example 10 A medium hub airport in the eastern United States pays stormwater fees that are assessed by parcel, with the rate for each parcel based on tiers of percent impervious area. The highest tier for nonresidential properties is greater than 1 million square feet of impervious area, billed at around $1,000 per month. The airport had acquired multiple parcels over the years but had never consolidated them. Most parcels were contiguous, but there were a few residential parcels purchased for noise abatement that were not connected. Because the stormwater fees are assessed per parcel, the airportâs stormwater fees had the potential to be extremely high due to the number of parcels they owned. The airport consolidated parcels to reduce their fees. The process took 3â4 years and involved redrawing parcel boundaries and submitting paperwork to the county. The airport has succeeded in consolidating their industrial land into about 4 or 5 parcels, while their residential parcels remain separate.
40 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees There still may be challenges even if the utility can provide stormwater maintenance ser- vices to the airport. One airport acknowledged that they can submit projects to the utility but admitted that it can take a while for the utility to complete the project due to other demands. As a result, the airport usually completes these projects itself before the utility can get to it. If the utility has the authority to provide services, it may be valuable to keep an open dialogue with them to work out scheduling and to request help from the utility with less urgent needs. 3.3 Fee Recovery Airports may choose to mitigate the effects of stormwater fees on their finances by recovering fees through lease agreements with their tenants. Airports can include fee recovery in general facility expenses that factor into rents and do not typically charge fees as a line item. However, approaches for recovering fees vary; airports may base recovery on impervious area used by the tenants, use of airport stormwater system, or as part of airline landing fees (see Example 11 and Example 12). How Can an Airport Recover Fees? â¢ One of the participating airports is exempted by the utility for publicly owned parts of the airport, and the utility bills airport tenants directly. â¢ Another participating airport uses a more sophisticated approach involving tiers of impervious area used by tenants. Fee Recovery Example 11 A regional airport incorporates the cost of stormwater fees into tenantsâ leases but does not include them as a line item on the lease. The airport has not encountered opposition to recovery of fees. The airport is economically competitive in terms of hangar space. The hangar space is currently full, and there is a waiting list for new tenants. Some airports choose not to recover fees through lease agreements to keep rents economically competitive. Some smaller airports noted that they do not recover stormwater fees from tenants so they can remain competitive among other small airports in the area. In deciding whether is it appropriate to recover fees, airports should consider factors such as â¢ Overall revenue needs (including funds to maintain their stormwater systems), â¢ The magnitude of the fees they are charged, â¢ How the utility bills for fees, â¢ Regional competitiveness for tenants, â¢ Relationships with tenants, and â¢ Tenant lease or agreement language.
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 41 3.4 Awareness, Outreach, and Communication Strategies at the Local Level This group of mitigation strategies focuses on awareness of fee-related developments and maintaining effective and collaborative communication with utilities, including education and outreach. This section also discusses strategies for working and negotiating with a stormwater utility or local jurisdiction to fairly and equitably mitigate fees that may place a financial burden on the airport. Communicating Internally The general guidance provided in Section 2.2 regarding internal communication is also applicable for airports currently paying stormwater fees. An internally designated staff member should continue to involve relevant departments in discussions regarding storm water fees and to share information about the stormwater utility, rate structure, ongoing communications between the airport and the utility, and changes to utility policies. If there is ongoing communication with the utility regarding credits, exemptions, or other issues affecting fees, all relevant airport staff (e.g., engineering, operations, environmental, accounting) should be kept up to date. Other airport staff should also be encouraged to bring infor- mation, questions, or concerns to the airportâs internal representatives. Advocating for Airport Needs Airports should maintain an open dialogue with the stormwater util- ity to ensure the airport receives notification of any current or planned changes in the stormwater fee program (e.g., fee increases or other changes in utility policies). This will allow airports to plan for changes, offer input to the utility on how changes will affect them, and advocate for themselves as needed. Fee Recovery (Continued) Example 12 A large general aviation airport has been paying stormwater fees since 1998. In 1998, stormwater fees were under $100,000 per year. By 2003, the fees had risen to approximately $250,000 per year, and the airport began recovering storm- water fees from tenants through lease agreements in 2005. The airport charges tenants per square foot of leased area, using the utilityâs tiered rate structure based on the percent of impervious surface within a parcel. For example, if a tenant is leasing space that is entirely impervious but is located within a tax parcel with 20â40 percent impervious surface, the tenant is charged a rate per square foot for the 20â40 percent impervious category. Some tenants occupy a single parcel, and others may span multiple parcels. Credits the airport receives are passed through to tenants unless the tenant is relying on an airport stormwater detention facility and is not paying the airport through the airportâs stormwater facility policy. The accounting can become complex at times, but the staff has developed a system for determining fees. TIP Airports should revisit certain topics related to airport needs annually or bi-annually with the utility since staff and policies can change. For example, if a utility does not agree to exempt runways and taxiways, the airport could reopen the question a year later. Utility staff may have changed, or exemptions could be employed by other nearby utilities, making the case more viable.
42 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees Airports should make sure to provide the utility information on the airportâs stormwater management, including details of the stormwater system, runoff discharge locations, the systemâs performance for reducing runoff and peak flow, and water quality treatment. This will facilitate discussions with the utility about optimizing airport use of the utilityâs fee credit program (discussed in Section 3.2). Stormwater utilities should be made aware of special considerations regarding stormwater management at airports, such as wildlife hazards, runway safety areas, and management of deicing fluid. Airports may also wish to illustrate to the utility how the municipalityâs or countyâs stormwater requirements compare to the airportâs own stormwater management program and industrial NPDES permit requirements. If a utility does not currently exempt airport runways, taxiways, or other airport land uses, the airport staff should educate themselves on exemptions for airports, marine ports, industrial facilities, or railroads that have been implemented by other jurisdictions. Airports may wish to discuss with the utility the basis for exemptions, such as airport ownership (e.g., airport owned by the entity charging fees), or the similarities between airport runways and taxiways and roadways as public rights-of-way. Depending on the governance structure for the airport, this discussion and advocacy for an exemption of runways and taxiways may have to be taken to a city or county board for review, consideration, and approval. Clarifying Organizational Responsibilities for Stormwater Management To facilitate effective ongoing communication with the stormwater utility, the airport should regularly reevaluate the roles and responsibilities of both the airport and the stormwater utility. It is also important that the airport works with internal departments and the utility to regularly review, track, and update information, such as changes to airport infrastructure and storm- water management, the amount of impervious area at the airport, which parts of the property are handled by the municipal stormwater system, and which parts handle the runoff on-site. Appendix C includes a table for tracking stormwater management at the airport, which should be routinely updated. As the tracking document is revised, the airport stormwater point of contact should work directly with the municipal utility and review the status of the airportâs stormwater, including amount of impervious surface, exemptions, and credits. The airport should also obtain a clear understanding of the role of the utility in the treatment of the airportâs impervious surface runoff. It may also be advantageous to ask the utility to visit the airport site and inspect the infrastructure and potentially provide other services, such as maintenance of drainage ditches or other on-site conveyances. Negotiating with Stormwater Utilities In some cases, airports have negotiated with the municipalities or counties regarding stormwater fees and entered into agreements regarding payment. This process is not a first line approach as it can be time-consuming, requires airport staff resources, would entail legal counsel, and may be politically sensitive. However, in-kind agreements have been used successfully in cases where fees have been extremely high and there has been a compelling argument for fee reduction or elimination due to an airportâs robust on-site stormwater management program. There may be additional justification if the airport is receiving and treating runoff originating off-site. Because this approach is highly case-specific, this section will provide detailed examples of such agreements rather than general guidance (see Example 13 and Example 14).
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 43 3.5 Governing and Enabling LawâState Level Airport strategies to advocate for governing and enabling law at the state level usually involve extensive effort, resources, and outside legal expertise. Because these strategies are situation- specific and may be complex, they are addressed briefly in these sections. Examples are provided in lieu of specific guidance as all of these options can be complex and are dictated by state and local regulations. Inter-Local Agreements with Stormwater Utilities Example 13 In the late 1990s, a port authority incorporating an airport entered into an inter-local agreement with the municipality regarding the stormwater rate. The rate was negotiated, and a fixed rate was established through the agree- ment based on a historic amount of impervious area. The agreement has been renegotiated and amended several times. The most current agreement was renegotiated in February 2018. Through this agreement, the port agreed to pay the municipality stormwater fees. The fees were reduced from those rates specified in municipal code based on the level of stormwater management provided by the port, including that related to detention and treatment facilities, NPDES permit management, and watershed management. The municipality most likely does not have inter-local agreements with other large landholders. The only exception is an agreement with the state regarding highways. Example 14 A large hub airport was paying fees to the county since the 1990s. The airport has a robust stormwater management program to manage their runoff on-site and does not receive services from the stormwater utility. When the airport sought relief from stormwater fees, there was initially a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the department of public works and the airport. The MOU was eventually codified with an ordinance approved by the city council. It took about nine years for the bill to be put into place. The last time the airport paid stormwater fees to the county, it paid $500,000 for the year. If the airport still paid all the stormwater fees today, they would now pay approximately $2.5 million annually because of increasing rates and impervious area at the airport. The airport does still pay a small amount in fees for construction inspectors to oversee construction activities. The airport has stormwater infrastructure specific to the airport, particularly infrastructure to collect deicing fluids. In addition, the airport holds an industrial stormwater permit with the state. Therefore, it makes sense for the airport to maintain its own stormwater system. The MOU with the county was intended to clarify which parts of the stormwater system are municipal and which are industrial (i.e., what was included in the cityâs MS4 and what was not). The MOU made it clear that the airport would maintain its own stormwater system, particularly pertaining to deicing fluids, and would not pay stormwater fees (except for construction inspections).
44 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees Engagement and Lobbying Strategies to Promote Exemptions (Including State Legislation) Airports should advocate for exemption of runways and taxiways, especially if the stormwater fee program is considering exempting or already exempts public roadways. In some states, roadways are exempted from stormwater fees, and some airports have advocated for runways to be considered public rights-of-way similar to public roadways. Airports can lobby for exemptions of runways and taxi- ways to be written into state legislation dictating stormwater fee programs (see Example 15 and Example 16). It may be also helpful for airports to communicate with other large landholders in their area (e.g., other transportation sectors) because they can share some similar concerns with stormwater fees. As with a fee credit program, it is preferable that exemptions be included at initiation of, or during development of, the stormwater fee program, rather than later in the process. It may be possible to use any state associations that represent the interests of ports and airports as a lobbying agency. Local stormwater technical and policy advisory committee membership may also be helpful, especially during creation of the utility. TIP Review established exemptions to help inform how to propose and advocate for exemptions for the entire airport facility or for airport runways and taxiways. Legislation for Exemptions Example 15 A busy general aviation airport in the southeast began exploring ways to obtain exemption status from stormwater fees to overcome the financial burden placed on the airport. Annual stormwater fees totaled approximately $110,000 to the airport and were the largest operating expense besides per- sonnel. The airport learned that public roadways within the state are exempt from the fee. As a result, the airport attempted to gain an exemption for their taxiways and runways on the grounds that they are similar to public roadways, but they were unsuccessful at the local city level. The airport then turned to state legislation. Local representatives drafted a bill to exempt runways and taxiways from stormwater fees across the state. The bill was initially met with some opposition from a lobbying group that supports municipalities, but because some airports are owned by municipalities, that resistance was short-lived. The draft bill stated that in order for an airportâs runways and taxiways to be exempt from the fee the âairport shall use the amount of savings realized from this exemption for attracting business to the airport and shall provide certification to the county that the savings realized shall be used for this purpose.â The qualification criteria were a compromise so that airports would have to undertake projects in return for the exemption. Airports across the state will not have a problem meeting the criteria and will still be required to pay stormwater fees assessed on other parts of their properties (e.g., hangars, terminals, parking lots). The bill became law in 2017 and will save the general aviation airport discussed here approximately $60,000 per year in stormwater fees.
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 45 Establishment of an MS4 at an Airport Establishing a separate MS4 at an airport may allow it to better manage and mitigate NPDES stormwater permitting compliance and, as a result, lower its stormwater fees. However, this strategy could be politically sensitive and require intensive negotiation with state and local regulatory agencies. As a result, it may be the least desirable strategy for stormwater fee reduction for many airports. None of the participating airports have pursued this mitigation strategy, but one has considered it (see Example 17). The advantage to establishing the airport as an independent regulatory jurisdiction under the NPDES MS4 permit program is the ability to manage the costs associated with its stormwater regulatory compliance program without incurring the fees from an externally managed storm- water utility. However, the disadvantage is that this approach requires the airport to seek legal expertise, undertake negotiations with regulators, and manage potentially negative perceptions in neighboring communities. The airport will maintain compliance with the stormwater permit requirements and accept any risks that may have previously been borne by the external storm- water utility. To establish itself as a separate NPDES MS4 regulatory unit, an airport should contact its state regulatory body to understand the feasibility of the separation process, fees involved, forms to be filled out, and plans and other documents that must be submitted. Legislation for Exemptions (Continued) Example 16 A regional airport in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States pays storm- water fees to the local municipality. The municipal code exempts public streets but does not exempt runways and taxiways, which are considered private property. Runways and taxiways are, however, covered by the airportâs industrial stormwater permit and therefore receive a partial credit. The stateâs aviation council would like to advocate for the state to exempt runways and taxiways on the basis that they should be treated the same as public roads and highways, which are currently exempt from stormwater fees. The airport recommends that airports work with their colleagues at other airports to address common stormwater fee issues, including advocating for exemptions. Considering Becoming an MS4 Example 17 A regional airport in the eastern United States has considered becoming an MS4. Initial cost estimates showed that it would cost approximately $60,000 to become an MS4 and $10,000 annually to maintain it. The airport pays nearly $200,000 per year in fees, and becoming an MS4 could result in significant savings. If the airport remains under the jurisdiction of the stormwater utility, it will help the city main- tain compliance with the cityâs permit. The city has, therefore, been working to identify credit opportunities for the airport to incentivize the airportâs remaining under the jurisdiction of the stormwater utility.
46 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees Establishment of an Airport Stormwater Utility Another option for an airport is to establish its own stormwater utility. However, this can be complex and will be dictated by state and local regulations. For this reason, establishment of a stormwater utility or program is not a commonly used measure. Airports may, however, recover fees from tenants in a manner similar to a stormwater utility, even if a utility is not formally established (see Example 18 and Example 19). The general steps that an airport would take to formally establish its own stormwater utility or stormwater fee program would be the same as those that a municipality would take, as outlined in Section 1.7. The airport may first undergo a feasibility study to determine if establishment of a stormwater utility or stormwater fee program makes financial and operational sense for the airport. This would include assessing the costs associated with setting up and managing its own program, evaluating funding strategies, determining how to handle various administration issues (such as billing methodology and billing database management), and finally executing various implementation procedures (such as an ordinance, credit manual, and implementation schedule). Airport Stormwater Utilities Example 18 One airport developed a policy to charge tenants for using stormwater detention facilities constructed by the airport. Although not an official stormwater utility, the airportâs policy is similar to a utility. Stormwater management requirements were becoming increasingly stringent, with revisions to the drainage code requir- ing significantly greater stormwater detention for the same amount of impervious surface based on continuous rain event modeling. The airport was using the single- event-based model to design and size facilities. These upgrades were resulting in increasing expenses at the airport. The airport began charging tenants for their proportional share of the stormwater facility. The airport charges their tenants a one-time connection fee and rent for their proportional share. This policy only applies to leases that have been signed since the policy was instated. If a lease is amended, then the tenant will become subject to the policy. The policy has been generally accepted by tenants. In fact, the airportâs largest tenant bought space in one of the airportâs large regional detention facilities to manage runoff from owned land on an adjacent property. Example 19 A port authority chose to establish a stormwater utility because it owns, operates, maintains, and replaces the stormwater infrastructure. It also, to some extent, administers redevelopment requirements. In forming the utility, the port recognized its two divisions and activated that portion of the utility associated with its maritime operations. Although the airport division effectively operates a stormwater utility, the port commission elected to not activate the airport utility through formal commission action. (The commission action is a legal action to establish utility authority.) The airport has and continues to operate, maintain, and replace its stormwater infrastructure. The airport also pays the city a stormwater fee in accordance with an inter-local agreement. The fees paid to the city are reduced from those rates specified in municipal code based on the level of stormwater management provided by the port. Airport stormwater costs, including storm- water fees, are recovered from tenants on the basis of leased impervious surface.
Strategies for Fee Mitigation for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees 47 3.6 Tools for Airports Paying Stormwater Fees Checklist for Understanding the Local Utilities and Fees Assessed Knowing the Utilities and the Fees Assessed Check when completed Document and verify basics about the stormwater utilities Document and verify basics about the stormwater fees assessed Routinely check for utility and fee updates affecting the airport Checklist for Facility/Infrastructure-Related Strategies Property Parcel Configuration Check when completed Determine if your fee is parcel-based Verify the records and locations of airport parcels Determine if parcels can be consolidated/restructured Get an estimate for the time and expense to consolidate parcels Determine if the reduction in fees will be sufficient to justify the expense of the restructuring Requesting Services from the Utility Check when completed Determine whether the utility has authority to provide stormwater maintenance services to the airport Clarify the types and frequency of services that the utility routinely conducts Determine activities most appropriate for the utility to perform (e.g., maintenance of BMPs on the landside) and whether any specialized knowledge is needed for the maintenance (e.g., care of certain types of vegetation) Consider contracting services from the utility for specific needs if it has specialized equipment or other capabilities that the airport does not have Facility/Infrastructure Related Strategies Optimizing Use of Utility Credit Programs Check when completed Review the utilityâs credit manual Engage in proactive communication with utility representatives and do additional research to obtain a clear understanding of the credit options available Investigate whether any of the activities already implemented for compliance with the airportâs NPDES permit may also qualify for credits Find out if the utility is open to negotiations regarding stormwater BMPs at the airport that are not specifically identified in the utility credit program or if there are BMPs identified that might be modified to better suit airport needs Determine if there are specific stormwater BMPs that provide retention and treatment of runoff but are not commonly identified as stormwater controls (e.g., filter strips) Consider submitting copies of stormwater management plans or sustainability plans with the credit application to provide the utility with additional information regarding the airportâs long-term stormwater management efforts Document all information relevant to the credit program (see Appendix E): â¢ All specifications of your stormwater management programâs infrastructure â¢ Performance of your stormwater program (e.g., monitoring for permit conditions) â¢ Any other practices or structures that might help get maximum credit Accurate Accounting of Property and Impervious Area Check when completed Confirm that you are getting charged for the correct amount of impervious area Identify surfaces that may be pervious but accidentally identified as impervious area Ensure that there is no double-counting of property if you are paying fees to more than one jurisdiction If possible, provide measurements/calculations of your impervious area to the utility or verify calculations that the utility generates, at a regular interval (i.e., annual updates) Consider asking the utility to do a field survey in addition to working with GIS data or other desktop information to confirm that impervious area has been correctly calculated
48 Strategies for Airports to Reduce Local Stormwater Utility Fees Checklist for Fee Recovery Fee Recovery Check when completed Verify whether your stormwater fee bill includes the entire airport, including tenants, or if tenants are billed separately by the utility Assess whether an increase in tenant fees would result in opposition from tenants and whether or not it may compromise competitiveness with other nearby airports Consider the amount that would be appropriate to recoup; determine portion of fees needed to recover from tenants to meet budgetary needs Evaluate options for recovering fees: â¢ Included in lease agreements as part of general expenses (i.e., not as a line item) â¢ Directly passed onto tenants according to case-specific measures (e.g., use of impervious area, use of stormwater system) Checklist for Awareness, Outreach, and Communication Strategies at the Local Level Awareness, Outreach, and Communication Strategies at the Local Level Communicating Internally Check when completed Identify relevant airport departments and staff Designate a staff member to coordinate internal communication Disseminate helpful information internally about stormwater fee programs Ensure that there is a person designated to coordinate internal communication regarding stormwater fees and to remain up to date on any developments regarding the stormwater fee (e.g., changes to the fee or opportunities for negotiation) Advocating for Airport Needs Check when completed Maintain an open dialogue with the stormwater utility to ensure that the airport receives notification of any current or planned changes in the stormwater fee program Continue to provide information to the stormwater utility regarding stormwater management at the airport If the opportunity arises, advocate for exemptions from the fee (e.g., runways and taxiways) Clarifying Organizational Responsibilities for Stormwater Management Check when completed Reevaluate stormwater management responsibilities of the airport and of the utility