This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.
The flooding threat posed by the meltdown of last week’s snow and ice is timely ammunition for the Pierce County Council’s attempt to create a flood-control taxing district.
Even areas that aren’t close to major rivers have experienced problems caused by too much water. Overtaxed storm drains and catch basins present surface-water issues for county residents who don’t live anywhere near rivers like the Puyallup or Nisqually.
That’s why the council’s new approach makes sense: Give communities that aren’t threatened by river flooding access to some of the flood district’s revenues for stormwater control. For cities that aren’t near rivers, that kind of sweetener should be attractive.
The original plan for a flood-control district failed in 2010 due mainly to opposition from cities outside flood-vulnerable areas. They didn’t see how they would benefit from a tax that went into projects to control flooding and runoff of contaminants into Puget Sound.
That’s flawed thinking. It’s been estimated that a major flood in Pierce County could do $725 million in damage, perhaps shutting down highways, businesses and the Port of Tacoma. Such a disaster would hurt just about everyone in the county in some way.
The County Council proposal would cost only 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation – $25 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home. It would raise about $8.5 million a year for flood-control efforts and – under the new plan – local stormwater control.
The council has so far shied away from a tiered taxing system that would charge property owners in flood zones a higher rate. But that system likely would enjoy more widespread support and could have the added benefit of discouraging new development in flood-prone areas. Insurers charge more to customers depending on their locations; why shouldn’t the flood-control district?
The council is scheduled to vote Jan. 31 on creating the district, and it appears that the votes are there for approval. While the plan is a sound one, it would be even better with a tiered tax rate.