Flood Mitigation to Achieving Multiple Stormwater Management Goals
Get the water off the streets! That was the rallying cry for stormwater management for most of the 20th Century. Stormwater control was relegated to a supporting role in county and municipal street departments. While drinking water and sewer systems were operated as revenue generating enterprise funds, funding for stormwater generally remained as part of the overall street maintenance budget. Consequently, comprehensive planning for storm sewers was given a low priority and new construction in one area often lead to increased flooding downstream.
The significance of the problem made major news in the Kansas City Metro area on September 12, 1977 when 16 inches of rain drove Brush Creek, which flows through Praire Village and Mission Hills and into Kansas City, Missouri, over its banks. Northeast Johnson County communities experienced major flooding and one person lost their life on the Kansas side of the state line. Even more extensive damage occurred on the Missouri side where 25 people died and nearly $100 million worth of property damage was sustained. For the next 13 years, Johnson County and its 20 incorporated cities continued to try and address their flooding problems independently of one another, but with no dedicated funding source, little progress was made.
Recognizing the problems inherent with limited funding and the need for a more regional approach to effectively managing stormwater, the Kansas State Legislature passed legislation in 1988 that granted Counties the power to levy a retail sales tax up to 1/10th of one percent for the purposes of paying for the cost of stormwater management and flood control improvements. In 1990, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners adopted Resolution No. 38-90 which implemented the tax and created the Stormwater Management Program (SMP). The Stormwater Management Program administers the funds collected through this tax on behalf of the cities and provides other types of stormwater planning assistance within Johnson County. To-date the SMP has helped cities fund over $200 million of stormwater improvement projects with Johnson County cities.