Ohio Supreme Court approves NEORSD's Regional Stormwater Management Program

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's appeal concerning its Regional Stormwater Management Program.

CLEVELAND, OHIO, Sept. 15, 2015 -- Today, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District's (NEORSD) appeal concerning its Regional Stormwater Management Program. The District, under Ohio Revised Code Chapter 6119 and founding charter, is not only authorized to manage stormwater, but to impose a fee for that purpose as well.

The Regional Stormwater Management Program is designed to address flooding, streambank erosion and water quality issues throughout much of Northeast Ohio. "This is a great victory for the region," said Darnell Brown, president of the NEORSD Board of Trustees. "Stormwater is causing damage and inter-community flooding problems, and we can now tackle this growing problem with a regional solution."

The Supreme Court was asked to hear two Propositions of Law:

  • Proposition of Law No. 1: "A district formed pursuant to [Ohio Revised Code] Chapter 6119 is authorized to manage stormwater, which is not combined with sewage, and to impose a charge for that purpose. Such a charge is one 'for the use or service of a water resource project or any benefit conferred thereby.'"
  • Proposition of Law No. 2: "When a Petition and Plan of Operations grant a [Ohio Revised Code] Chapter 6119 district the authority to operate stormwater handling facilities, that district is authorized to create and implement a regional stormwater management program, including imposing appropriate charges to operate that program."

Ruling in favor of the Sewer District were Justices Paul E. Pfeiffer, Judith Ann Lanzinger, William M. O'Neill, and Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Terrence O'Donnell dissented. Justice Judith L. French concurred in part and dissented in part.

"There are many sound policy reasons to support or oppose the creation of [NEORSD's] regional stormwater management program and its attendant fee structure," wrote Justice Pfeiffer in the ruling. "In our view, the statute plainly indicates that 'wastewater' comes in two forms. One is any stormwater.' The other is any water containing sewage or industrial waste or other pollutants or contaminants derived from the prior use of the water.'"

The prior court's ruling suspended NEORSD's program, effectively terminating construction projects and maintenance work. All billing was suspended, and collected funds were placed into escrow. Although the District will restart the Regional Stormwater Management Program, a specific date -- either for remobilizing construction projects or resuming billing -- has not yet been established.

See also:

"Sewer Board unanimously approves stormwater program"

"Upgrades to NEORSD treatment facilities factor into aquatic life gains in Cleveland"

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