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In May 1993, the City began preparing to make significant changes in the way it managed stormwater on Mercer Island. The catalyst for this effort was new regional, state and federal requirements.

During the second half of 1993, two of Mercer Island’s drainage basins were studied in detail during a process that actively involved interested basin residents. The studies were designed to gauge public perception of drainage and related water-quality problems, and to evaluate the effectiveness of various education tools.

The information gained from these studies, along with additional work scheduled for mid-1994, was used to develop an Island-wide program of system improvements and enhancements and a financing structure for the program.

In the fall of 1995, the City Council passed two ordinances (95C-118 and 95C-127) that created the legal and financial framework of the Storm and Surface Water Utility and provided the tools to begin achieving the goals of “creating a comprehensive program that integrates the Island’s private, public and natural and manmade systems into an effective network for control and, where possible, prevention of runoff quantity and quality problems.”

By the end of 1998, the Storm and Surface Water Utility had been fully launched with a full range of contemporary utility issues and needs. Major capital projects, along with operating and maintenance standards, have been established to meet customer service expectations and regulatory compliance.

The City is in compliance with all applicable federal and state stormwater requirements, Western Washington Phase II Municipal (NPDES) Permit issued by the Washington State Dept. of Ecology. In 2005, the City developed a Comprehensive Basin Review that examined the City’s storm and surface water programs, focusing on capital needs, capital priorities, and utility policies. The capital priorities are updated regularly in conjunction with the capital budget process. Mercer Island is urban/residential in nature and all of the Island’s stormwater eventually ends up in Lake Washington. The prevention of nonpoint pollution is a major priority.