Drainage district will bill for urban runoff
The Grand Valley Drainage District will send out the first of regular monthly invoices to Mesa County and the three Grand Valley municipalities for its services in collecting water off untaxed government facilities.
District officials say they’re concerned that they face liability for the water that runs off streets, government buildings and parking lots and other impervious surfaces that collect in the drainage system they operate.
The district has taken several steps to reduce financial woes that officials detailed to Mesa County and municipal officials last year. District Chairman Mark Harris said it’s clear that the district is short of the revenue needed to deal with day-to-day activities and insulate itself from liability for the kinds of waters that end up in the ditches and pipelines the district operates.
Waters such as those that flow off the impervious surfaces of government facilities fit into a category different from that of the agricultural runoff the district was designed to collect nearly a century ago.
What are now called “regulated,” as opposed to agricultural, waters flow into the district’s system, which covers lands from Palisade to Loma north of the Colorado River.
The pressure to treat regulated waters differently than agricultural runoff is growing, Harris said.
“People who tell us not to worry about water quality are just not paying attention,” Harris said.
The district collects a mill levy of 1.245, but government entities don’t pay property taxes.
So, the district will send invoices next month to Mesa County, $13,250.40; Grand Junction, $11,910.80; Fruita, $4,277.60; and Palisade, $354.29.
“It’s not in the budget,” Mesa County Commission Chairman John Justman said.
“I don’t know if we can pay it.”
Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney said Fruita disagrees with the assessment.
“Their approach doesn’t make any sense,” Kinney said, noting in a memo to the City Council that, “The district must be crazy.”
By the same logic, Kinney noted in the memo, Fruita could charge the district for the use of those same impervious surfaces, such as roads.
The Grand Junction City Council is to discuss the district at a future meeting, the city said.
In no small part, the invoices are intended to get the attention of the local governments and bring them to the bargaining table, Harris said.
The county and cities should “pay their fair share of the cost of conveying and managing the regulated urban storm waters they produce.”