When the City of Missoula acquired what is now the Missoula Water Company, one of the necessary steps was to comply with federal, state and local laws for storm water management and to maintain infrastructure for surface and underground movement of water from rain and snow melt.

Interim Public Works Director Dennis Bowman addressed the Missoula City Council to discuss setting permanent rates for the Storm Water Utility.

“The way they set it up is that the initial fee, which collects between $250,000 and $270,000 a year in revenue for the Storm Water Utility, that was set up so that we could hire a consultant to do a facilities plan for the utility,” said Bowman. “That way they can say in order for us to be compliant with the federal regulations, this is what you have to do and how often you have to do the maintenance, and these are the improvements you have to make.”

The storm water runs down the street into over 6,000 dry wells called ‘sumps’. Bowman said annual maintenance is required to keep the sumps running effectively.

“We have to do annual maintenance on those sumps, which is cleaning to make sure they work properly,” he said. “The way the sumps are designed is that they filter out the sediment before it gets down into the aquifer. However, those get filled up after awhile and that’s why they don’t work on the corners, so this takes care of all the proposed maintenance of the pumps, and also cleaning all the piping systems that we have.”

Bowman said the sump inspections took place over the past summer.

“They were able to do a little over 500 sumps this summer,” he said. “Out of those 500 sumps they found 50 that were no longer working correctly and they need to be replaced,” he said. “If they aren’t replaced then the water backs up in them and it ends up on the street and creates a little lake or flooding and eventually the weather and other conditions can damage the asphalt, along with the safety issues of people playing in it and trying to drive through it.”

Bowman said the Public Works Department will plan their work so that the streets, storm drains and other infrastructure items such as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps can be repaired or replaced all at once to avoid the extra expense of multiple projects in the same area.

Bowman said the City Council will put the issue of the Storm Water Utility Rates out for public comment before actually setting the rates.