Columbia City Council to vote on $1 billion dollar sewer, stormwater plan

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council approved a sewer plan on Monday that's estimated to cost more than $1 billion over the next twenty years.

The Columbia Integrated Management Plan (IMP) would incrementally replace sewage and stormwater drains in parts of the city over the next two decades.

Third Ward Councilmember Karl Skala said the current systems are outdated.

"There is always more runoff as a consequence of more development, of more pervious pavement," he said. "We have to address that issue and we have to address what is existing already and some of the problems that we have in that existing infrastructure because it is wearing out." 

The plan was made by HDR Engineering partnered with others to create a method to improve the city's drainage systems. Trent Stober presented the plan to the council and discussed ideas that would benefit the community. 

“The program will be paid for from customer rates and bills from wastewater and stormwater services,” Stober said.

Skala said old sewage lines are cracked and cannot withstand "strong weather events."

"We get a tremendous amount of inflow and infiltration in the sewer system and it overwhelms the system, backs up these sewers, and lots of people have backups in their basements," he said.

Skala said the council needs to pass the plan before funding can be discussed and that bond issues would be a likely funding source.

The Missouri Public Utility Alliance, which represents municipally owned utilities, urged the city to pass the measure.

“We support Columbia’s Integrated Management Plan approach that includes funding for necessary capital improvements that will replace outdated infrastructure and enhance human and environmental safety," it said.

Despite the $1 billion price tag, the organization said the proposal incorporates an "affordability factor."

"It is important for communities to consider the effect that the increase of rates will have on all rate payers,” the statement said.

Skala said he hopes the city will move in the right direction.

"This has been in the hopper for some time and this is the result and I think it is a positive step forward."

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