In June 2009, the Falls Church City Council commissioned a citizen-led Watershed Advisory Committee to develop a Watershed Management Plan. Over the next 2 years the committee took part in a comprehensive study of the watershed and considered existing and future stormwater policies, regulations, and capital improvement projects. Following City Council meetings and public comment the Watershed Management Plan was adopted by City Council in February 2012.
The plan establishes a roadmap for the city to restore and maintain a healthy, sustainable aquatic ecosystem in the Tripp's Run and Four Mile Run watersheds while providing adequate flood control and the safe management of stormwater runoff.
The Watershed Management Plan notes that the city currently lacks adequate funding to implement needed stormwater improvements. In response, the Watershed Advisory Committee recommended the creation of an enterprise fund and an investigation into developing a dedicated revenue source.
At the request of the Falls Church City Council, in June 2012, city staff began developing a stormwater program that would meet the city's current and future needs and then began investigating potential funding options for further public consideration. At the April 22, 2013, City Council Meeting the City Council voted unanimously (7-0) on TO13-08 to establish a stormwater utility. On June 10, 2013, City Council set the rate at $18 per 200 square feet of impervious cover. The city is targeting June 2014 to issue the first bill.
The Watershed Management Plan offers the most complete and detailed information concerning the city's stormwater needs. However, the following sections provide a brief summary of the major concerns facing Falls Church:
Aging Infrastructure: Much of the city's stormwater system was installed as the City grew during the 1930s through the 1960s, which was prior to any flood and stormwater regulations. As the City increased in density, the stormwater infrastructure became overwhelmed with additional runoff from impervious surfaces. Furthermore, many of these stormwater pipes are beyond their expected life span and in some locations have failed or are near failing. As we see with some regularity, flooding occurs in areas due to undersized or broken stormwater pipes. City staff estimates roughly $20 million will be needed in the next 10 years to solve drainage problems and replace aging stormwater infrastructure.
Stormwater Regulations and the Chesapeake Bay: The City, like every jurisdiction in Virginia, is now facing new state and federal regulations aimed at restoring the Chesapeake Bay. For example, the new laws will require revamping existing stormwater ordinances so they impose stricter development criteria. Additionally, City staff estimates compliance with the revised stormwater permit and Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) will require $15 million in expenditures by 2025 for stormwater quality specific construction projects.