Trees work as a vital part of a city’s stormwater system, and now Walla Walla wants to put its stormwater fund to work returning the favor.
This could mean good news for property owners as well because if stormwater funds are provided to support the care and maintenance of street trees, staff will prepare a code amendment for City Council to consider that reduces the burden of caring for street trees by adjacent property owners.
Current city code makes the adjacent property owner responsible for care and maintenance of trees located in the right-of-way next to their property.
City Parks & Recreation staff have recommended that Walla Walla City Council approve an ordinance to include “green infrastructure” and urban forestry as part of the city’s stormwater utility. That goes before City Council during its regular 7 p.m. meeting Wednesday at City Hall.
Funding would be transferred from the stormwater fund to the park maintenance budget to support street trees, according to the staff report. In 2020, that would mean $153,896. Additional funds would be moved over annually, according to the agenda notes.
No stormwater rate increase is being proposed at this time.
As part of the 2019-2020 budget process, the Parks & Recreation Department requested additional funding to support an increased urban forestry program to maintain the 13,000 trees on city property.
Staff proposed using stormwater funds to pay for an increased level of service. This concept is one that other cities in Washington are using to support urban forestry.
Existing green infrastructure owned and maintained by the city of consists of 60 bio-infiltration swales and infiltration basins. These facilities have historically been maintained by the Parks & Recreation Department.
As more of these facilities have been added, the department has struggled to keep up with the maintenance without increased staffing.
In 2018, the Public Works and Parks & Recreation Departments worked together to establish a program to increase the level of maintenance and care to these green infrastructure facilities, which includes the proposal going before City Council on Wednesday.