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In 2007, Triangle J Council of Governments and the UNC-Chapel Hill Environmental Finance Center surveyed local government stormwater managers to report the extent to which local governments in North Carolina are currently implementing, financing, managing, and enforcing post-construction, engineered, structural stormwater best management practices (BMPs). The learning objective was to provide information that stormwater managers could use to compare their own programs to other jurisdictions and to be better informed on decisions that may help increase the effectiveness of their programs.
The research team developed a survey instrument to determine which practices local governments use to manage stormwater-related information, inspect and maintain BMPs, finance repairs, and enforce compliance. Most questions focused on publicly available information about the stormwater program, and a few questions asked the expert opinions of the professionals surveyed. The survey instrument was designed so that respondents would be able to complete it in 30 minutes or less and was administered online with a hard copy option available upon request. Fifty-eight jurisdictions responded, a response rate of 36%. These 58 local governments contain 48% of the land area and 70% of the population of the totals for all the jurisdictions in the survey population (Barnes, 2008). Almost all were subject to NPDES Phase II.
The data show that local governments vary significantly in the ways in which they oversee the planning, installation, and monitoring of BMPs. By and large, local governments are taking on responsibility for stormwater planning and BMP inspections but are leaving maintenance responsibilities to landowners. Most stormwater programs that are considering funding their programs with fees are already doing so or preparing to do so. Some important implementation and enforcement mechanisms such as fines and performance guarantees are not commonly used, which means that local governments might end up without compensation to fix dysfunctional stormwater BMPs.
Respondents repeatedly echoed the caveat that their programs were just starting out and that their responses should not be viewed as representative. These anecdotal statements coupled with the data portray many small local government stormwater management programs in their early, formative stages. The number of BMPs was statistically related to population growth, so we can certainly expect more stormwater BMPs to be installed in the future as North Carolina’s population continues to rise. This obvious fact points to a need for more and better research, guidance, and tools on best practices for local governments to oversee and enforce the installation and maintenance of stormwater BMPs.