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Fox Cities investing in urban runoff management (UPDATE)

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — The proliferation of stormwater ponds over the years has cost taxpayers and developers millions of dollars in the Fox Cities, but officials say they are working as intended.

Dozens of stormwater ponds throughout the area store runoff to prevent flooding and allow pollutants, such as oil and fertilizer, to settle before the water continues downstream. Nick Vande Hey, a senior project engineer with McMahon Group, Neenah, estimates communities worked to remove about 5 to 20 percent of sediment carried by rainwater in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“Today, we’re probably in the range of 20 percent to 40 percent,” he said. “In some ways, we probably doubled what we were removing in a 20-year period.”

But that percentage may need to be doubled again to ensure the state’s waterways are safe for fishing and swimming, Post-Crescent Media reported.

Appleton spent $11.8 million on stormwater construction projects this year and plans to spend $43 million more through 2019. Neenah estimates it will spend $4 million on those projects in the next five years.

Ponds are usually the most cost-effective method of stormwater management that complies with water-quality standards enforced both statewide and nationwide, according to Vande Hey. Other green infrastructure options, including infiltration beds, rain gardens, biofilters, permeable pavement and grass ditches, can still play an important role even though they can be harder to incorporate into existing infrastructure, he said.

“You’re not going to rip out all of the sidewalks in downtown Appleton to put in grass ditches,” he said.

Some cities established stormwater utilities about a decade ago to help pay for improvements through user fees. The typical homeowner in Appleton is charged $155 a year, while those in Neenah pay about $84 annually.

Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.com

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