D.C. Water may impose flooding fee

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Local,DC,Alan Blinder

Brace yourselves, D.C. Water customers: A new tax may start appearing on your bill next summer.

The D.C. Council gave tentative approval Tuesday to a proposal that would allow the utility to assess a fee of up to 30 cents a month for flood relief after the Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park neighborhoods saw significant damage this summer.

"An antiquated sewer system has been the source of costly and extensive property damage," said Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, an architect of the measure to create the fund of $1 million. "This bill would provide compensation for property owners."

Under the proposal, D.C. Water would collect the fee next summer through September 2014. About 6,000 low-income residents would be exempt, lawmakers said.

Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, the lone council opponent, criticized the measure as doing nothing to fix the problems that prompted the flooding.

"I'm supportive of policies that will prevent flooding," Bowser said. "But what's before us is not, in fact, an investment in the infrastructure... The flooding is not being prevented."

Mayor Vincent Gray has also signaled his discomfort with the proposal because of the prospect of higher rates and the possibility that the federal government could refuse to pay the fee.

"This is why you have insurance," Gray told reporters after the vote. "Are we becoming an insurance company now, too?"

But Ward 1 Councilman Jim Graham said the plan was humanitarian in nature.

"The notion that we could maybe put a little money aside from the system -- the whole system -- just makes sense," said Graham, whose ward experienced flood damage. "We're helping each other."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner