Stormwater is the result of rainfall that does not soak into the ground and flows into surface waterways or storm sewers. Stormwater is a concern to the City of Paducah and has to be controlled from a quantity and quality standpoint. Construction activities and increased impervious surfaces associated with new development and expansion of existing sites can lead to increased stormwater runoff and pollution. Storm water management and how the public can help maintain flow into the system are highlighted in this Paducah View episode (6:09 minutes).
The majority of the City’s drainage problems originates from natural geography since Paducah is located on the Ohio River’s floodplain. Nearly 204,000 square miles of land drain to Paducah.
Regarding infrastructure, Paducah has 110 miles of storm sewer and 69 miles of combined sewer. Much of the city’s development occurred at a time when storm water management was not a priority and the current development ordinances were not in place. The current storm water system is aging, does not meet capacity needs, and needs to be upgraded and/or replaced. The majority of the storm sewers are 60 to 100 years old.
Following the historic storm event on July 7, 2015, the City decided in 2016 to move forward with the development of a comprehensive storm water master plan to study and model the existing storm water management system in detail, establish project goals, and prioritize projects. The master plan also would look at possible ways to fund system upgrades. The previous study was completed in 1989 and looked at only five flood-prone areas.
Buckner Lane Bridge Replacement and Crooked Creek Mitigation Project - This comprehensive project improves the two-lane section of Buckner Lane between Hansen Road and Pecan Drive and replaces the dilapidated bridge (pictured) that has been affected by flooding and severe weather events. The project includes the replacement of Buckner Lane bridge over Crooked Creek near the intersection with Buckner Lake Circle and the installation of a larger box culvert under Oakcrest Drive near the intersection with Buckner Lane. Since the bridge’s opening will be enhanced, it will improve the flow during flood conditions and reduce the number of times that floodwaters from Crook Creek overtop the roadway during high rain events. Also, the drainage ditch adjacent to Buckner Lane will be improved by lining it with concrete to enhance stormwater flow and reduce overgrowth.
The last phase of the project will be improving the Buckner Lane roadway by increasing the lane widths, adding four-foot wide shoulders, and paving. The entrance to Buckner Lake Circle also will be improved.
The bid opening for this project was March 23, 2022, with the Paducah Board of Commissioners approving a contract with Jim Smith Contracting on April 26, 2022. Work begins May 31 with the expectation is for the project to be completed in late 2022, weather-permitting.
Regarding funds, the City applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Relief Funding for the Buckner Lane bridge project after flooding and severe weather events in 2018. FEMA has obligated nearly $330,000 in Public Assistance funding for the project with the State providing nearly $53,000. The City also is using a portion of the $4 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that the City set aside for stormwater projects.
The City of Paducah contracted in March 2017 with Strand Associates, Inc. with the assistance of Paducah-based Bacon Farmer Workman Engineering & Testing, Inc. to complete the Comprehensive Stormwater Master Plan for Paducah.
“The goal of the Master Plan is not to eliminate flooding. The goal is to mitigate flooding, to manage flooding—to find a balance between costs and benefits achieved. It’s a difficult conversation. In a perfect world, no one would flood.”
Phase I - The Master Plan’s first phase used the July 7, 2015, storm event to create a model of Paducah’s natural and manmade infrastructure including storm and combined sewer systems, topography, drainage basins, and river systems. This computer model along with community input was used to determine flood-prone areas in Paducah. The Master Plan’s first phase identified approximately $43 million in flood mitigation projects located within ten priority areas. If the drainage projects outlined in the ten project areas were completed, 245 homes in the City would not be flooded with an additional 289 structures seeing a reduction in flooding.
Phase II - The Master Plan’s second phase included the development of annual operation and maintenance costs and the costs for repair and replacement of existing infrastructure, the projection of future funding needs, funding alternatives and rate options, billing system options, a rate comparison, and a storm water utility ordinance. It specifically addresses the creation of a Stormwater Utility with an associated Stormwater Impact Fee. The proposed Fee is a revenue stream that could fund items including the ten drainage projects identified in the first phase of the plan development, operations and maintenance of the existing infrastructure, the City’s flood protection system (floodwall), regulatory compliance requirements, infrastructure repair and replacement, and the administration of the program through staffing and equipment. There are approximately 1500 stormwater utilities in the United States with 12 of them in Kentucky.
The consultant team also worked with a citizen advisory group, the Storm Water Advisory Committee (SWAC), to solicit feedback on the priority areas, mitigation options, and level of service to be used for sizing alternatives. General cost and design differences for levels of service ranging from 10-year, 25-year, and 100-year storm events were shared with the SWAC to help inform decision making that led to the selection of a 25-year storm event as the basis of design.
Stormwater Utilities and an associated Infrastructure Fee would be a dedicated funding source for the City of Paducah to solve drainage problems, to repair, maintain, and enhance existing storm infrastructure, to provide flood protection, and to comply with federal regulatory requirements associated with water quality.
Most storm water utilities use the Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) as their method of funding storm water projects and operations. Using the ERU method, a property would be charged a monthly storm water fee based on its contribution to storm water runoff which is directly related to the amount of impervious surface on a property such as rooftops, driveways, and patios. In Kentucky, several communities have a monthly fee ranging from $1.50 to more than $7.00 to fund their storm water utilities. In 2016, the State average was $3.60 per month for residential properties. Nationally, there are approximately 1500 storm water utilities.
Note: This fee was proposed in 2019. It has not been implemented. Paducah proposed a Stormwater Infrastructure Fee of $6.13 per month per Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). Using a sample of 50 residential parcels in Paducah, the average amount of impervious area per residential parcel is 3500 square feet. It was proposed that each residential parcel would pay the same amount, one ERU ($6.13 per month). However, the calculations are more complex for non-residential parcels. Non-residential parcels such as commercial entities would pay a monthly fee equal to the total amount of impervious area on the property divided by 3500 and then multiplied by the proposed fee of $6.13 per month. The fee could generate $2.7 million annually.
A presentation was provided at the May 21, 2019, Public Meeting that provides an overview of the fee development and the master planning process. Stormwater Public Meeting Slide Presentation (from May 21, 2019)
Request for Qualifications Information for Stormwater Master Plan
City of Paducah Code of Ordinances Chapter 50 Floods
1961 Sanitary, Storm, and Combined Sewers Master Plan Report
1989 Stormwater Drainage Study
2015 SMS4 Annual Compliance Report