General Assembly Passes Stormwater Management Legislation: MPC Urges Governor to Sign - Metropolitan Planning Council

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General Assembly Passes Stormwater Management Legislation: MPC Urges Governor to Sign

MPC and its partners break-through 13 years of logjam to allow counties and municipalities to plan together to protect water quality and prevent flooding

Ever since the Mississippi River's torrential flooding in 1992, there has been a need for regional cooperation for stormwater management in Illinois, particularly in urbanizing areas of the Metro East area, and more recently for  fast-growing counties in northern Illinois that were left out of prior legislation. 

In fact, a survey undertaken by MPC and Openlands Project, under the auspices of the Campaign for Sensible Growth, found that northern Illinois communities beyond the six county  were far less likely to have basic water protection ordinances in place than within the six county area of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will. 

In the December 2004 publication Changing Course, we recommended the state pass enabling legislation allowing counties to set up stormwater planning committees that would work with municipalities to develop and implement a consistent plan for stormwater management.

Such enabling legislation has allowed the six northeastern Illinois counties to set up stormwater management committees for over a decade, but the rest of the state was excluded.Stormwater managementis the only planning structure in Illinois in which the actions of counties and municipalities must be consistent with their locally adopted regional plans. Local governments have been in favor of this regional approach because water does not follow political boundaries, and they have a seat at the table in developing and implementing the plans. The action of one’s neighbor will directly affect one’s own community. Whether it is preventing flooding or improving water quality, a cooperative, regional and long-term approach is needed.

Various attempts have been made in the past to extend the authority to create stormwater management committees, particularly for the Metro East/St. Louis region that has been repeatedly hit hard by floodingof the Mississippi River . But long-standing rivalries had prevented action from being taken.

MPC, Openlands, and the Campaign for Sensible Growth had built relationships with both sides of the debate on related issues in the past – from the passage of the Local Planning Technical Assistance Act in 2002, to negotiation on water facility planning processes led by Openlands, to alliances through MPC with both Metro East regional leaders and the Ill. Farm Bureau.

After 13 years of debate, it came as a surprise that both sides of the debate cared deeply about the issue, but needed assistance coming to terms over the technical language to pass legislation. The Metro East Regional Stormwater Management District secured the chief sponsor, Ill. Sen. William Haine (D – 56, Alton ). MPC drafted a new bill, SB 1910 , based on the existing legislation for northeastern Illinois.

After much negotiation, all organizations signed off on SB 1910, and the bill proceeded through the Sentate, House and back for concurrence in the Senate.

The bill will “allow management and mitigation of the effects of urbanization on stormwater management” through:

1. “Consolidating the existing stormwater management framework into a unified, countywide structure.

2. Setting minimum standards for floodplain and stormwater management.

3. Preparing a countywide plan for the management of stormwater runoff, including the management of natural and man-made drainageways. The countywide plan may incorporate watershed plans.”

The bill specifically grants authority to members of the Southwestern Illinois Metropolitan and Regional Planning Commission (Madison, St. Clair, Monroe counties), as well as the fast-urbanizing counties on the edge of the Chicago region: Kankakee, Grundy, LaSalle, DeKalb, Kendall, and Boone.

The legislation has been adapted from northeastern Illinois to account for the much greater agricultural role in these additional counties.

Supporters include Metro Counties Council, Illinois Environmental Council, Illinois Municipal League and Metro East Stormwater Management District, in addition to MPC, Openlands Project, and the Campaign for Sensible Growth. In addition, agreements were reached with the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Realtors, Homebuilders Association of Illinois, and the Drainage District Association.

For more information, contact Scott Goldstein

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