Berkeley’s Clean Stormwater Fund faces $2.5M annual budget deficit

Roy Kaltschmidt/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/Courtesy

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The city of Berkeley’s Clean Stormwater Fund is currently facing an annual budget deficit of $2.5 million, which the Community Environmental Advisory Commission, or CEAC, discussed during its meeting Thursday. 

On top of this deficit, the city expects an additional $208 million in projected costs of stormwater infrastructure — a sum necessary to address the needs outlined in the Department of Public Works’ Watershed Management Plan, or WMP, which was passed in 2012. The city is considering a ballot measure to provide funding to the department and will host several community meetings in the upcoming months to hear the community’s input about the proposed funding initiatives, according to the city’s website.

The WMP is a city plan to manage urban water resources in an effort to “establish a healthier balance between the urban environment and natural ecosystems,” according to the WMP.

A key aspect of the WMP is the management of urban runoff. Urban runoff is the process by which rainwater flows downhill over city surfaces and eventually into open water sources. During this process, the water often picks up pollutants and can therefore contribute to water pollution and localized flooding, according to the WMP’s initial study.

The plan recommends policies and programs to meet various goals including improved water quality, reductions in flooding and increased protection for natural waterways and habitats. The WMP also minimizes and manages urban runoff to reduce its effects on the city of Berkeley and its eventual pollution of the San Francisco Bay.

During the CEAC meeting, commissioner Liz Varnhagen said failure to fund the budget deficit might prevent the city’s 100-year-old stormwater infrastructures from being replaced and maintained. This could directly affect the pathways of runoff that passes through Berkeley into creeks and the San Francisco Bay.

The commission also discussed Berkeley’s “green developments” and potential bans on paper receipts and plastic items during the CEAC meeting.

The commission is considering advocating for a ban on receipts because they have been found to contain Bisphenol A, or BPA — exposure to which has been linked to harmful health effects. Additionally, the ban on plastic items and straws is part of the effort to decrease the large amounts of nonbiodegradable waste generated in the city.

Shayann Hendricks covers race and diversity. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shayannih.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Berkeley’s Clean Storm Water Fund is running a budget deficit of $208 million. In fact, it is running an annual deficit of $2.5 million. The $208 million sum is the projected costs for the Watershed Management Plan.