Location: Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky

Highlighted Element: 452.a. Stormwater Management Regulations (SMR) & 452.c. Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations (ESC)

Point of Contact: Lori Rafferty, P.E., CFM, Floodplain & CRS Administrator, Louisville & Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District, Louisville-Jefferson County, KY

Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government is the largest community in Kentucky. Formed in 2003 when two separate government entities, the city of Louisville and Jefferson County, consolidated to form one government entity (the metropolitan area supports a population of more than 1.2 million people) ("Louisville metropolitan area," no date). This unique government arrangement resulted in the centralization of community institutions (Savitch, Vogel & Ye, 2010). Meaning, the local government systems, bureaucracies and budgets of Louisville, the 89 suburban communities that surrounded it and Jefferson County were integrated (Savitch, Vogel & Ye, 2010).

That said, Louisville and Jefferson County have a long history of sharing management responsibilities when it comes to stormwater management, wastewater management and flood control. In 1946 the local government leaders of Louisville and Jefferson County passed an ordinance that established the Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) ("MSD Overview," 2012). This utility was tasked originally with operating and maintaining the region's network of combined and separate sanitary sewers ("MSD Overview" 2012,). Over time, MSD's mission expanded to include managing the Ohio River Flood Protection System, the public stormwater infrastructure system, as well as several other programs designed to protect the environment ("MSD Overview," 2012). Today MSD is an independent, non-profit, regional utility service funded primarily through wastewater and stormwater service fees ("MSD Overview," 2012; Metropolitan Sewer District, 2010). MSD is also responsible for administering the NFIP and managing the CRS program for the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government ("Floodplain Management," no date).

Find out if your community's stormwater management regulations and erosion and sediment control regulations qualify for CRS credit! Check out the Green Guide profiles for CRS elements 452.a. Stormwater Management Regulations and 452.c. Erosion and Sediment Control Regulations.

This region of Kentucky also has a long history of severe flooding. Louisville was built atop low-lying lands adjacent to the Ohio River, which floods frequently in the winter and spring ("Floodplain Management," no date). The city is also vulnerable to flash flooding by streams within the city limits ("Floodplain Management," no date). In 1987 MSD took over responsibility of Louisville's public stormwater infrastructure system. As a result of taking over responsibility for stormwater drainage within the city, MSD was motivated to have a comprehensive stormwater drainage plan for the region. This resulted in the creation of MSD's first Drainage Master Plan in 1987 (Metropolitan Sewer District, 2010). At that point in time, MSD hired a consultant to evaluate the community's existing stormwater management regulations and make recommendations regarding how they could be improved. The outcomes of the consultant's recommendations were implemented, and these regulations are what the community is credited for under element 452.a Stormwater Management Regulations.

Rain garden. Image courtesy of Louisville MSD.

Louisville-Jefferson County receives credit for its stringent stormwater development regulations. For example, developers are required to match the 2-, 10-, 25-, and 100-year pre-development peak flow rates for all new development (except single family homes or developments that disturb less than 2000 square feet of land). In addition, in 2013 MSD updated its design regulations and now requires all new developments one acre or more to implement "Green Management Practices" (GMPs) and Best Management Practices (BMPs) post-construction to help manage the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff from the development (Metropolitan Sewer District, no date; Metropolitan Sewer District, 2015). GMPs are essentially pieces of green infrastructure that can improve water quality, reduce peak flow rates, and reduce the total volume of runoff being produced by new development (Metropolitan Sewer District, no date; Metropolitan Sewer District, 2015). Requiring the implementation of these GMPs and BMPs certainly benefits the natural environment. However, because Louisville-Jefferson County does not require the use of these practices to the maximum extent possible, this is technically not creditable under the element 452.a. of the CRS.

Erosion prevention and sediment control plan is reviewed. Image courtesy of Louisville MSD.

Louisville-Jefferson County has also implemented regulations to manage erosion from construction sites. As an MS4 community, permitting and enforcing construction sites manage erosion from one acre or more in size is required. That said, in 2001 the community passed an erosion and sediment control ordinance that goes above and beyond the requirements of the MS4 permit by requiring all new development that disturbs 2,000 square feet or more to comply with the requirements of their erosion and sediment control regulations (Metropolitan Sewer District, 2015). This was done as a result of the community's concern for protecting stream water quality and out of recognition that much of the development occurring within the community was less than one acre. In decreasing the size of the development required to adhere to these erosion and sediment control regulations, they were able to capture more of the development occurring within the community limits.

How has MSD been so successful in implementing these higher regulatory standards? According to Lori Rafferty, Louisville-Jefferson County's CRS coordinator, MSD staff have built relationships with the development community as well as residents. Presently, MSD has a standing monthly meeting with the development community, which provides them with ample opportunities to voice their concerns, provide input, and ultimately come to a consensus regarding the implementation of more stringent stormwater management regulations. These meetings were essential to the previously mentioned erosion and sediment control regulations as well as the recently implemented green infrastructure standards. In order to more effectively regulate development, MSD has partnered with the city's permitting office. While MSD and Metro Louisville are entirely different agencies, they have integrated their plan review so that the city will not issue permits for projects in the floodplain unless MSD has permitted the project. Monthly interagency meetings are held to discuss any permitting issues and both Louisville and MSD use the same permitting software to track projects. This ensures that developments are permitted correctly and consistently.

MSD also conducted targeted outreach with citizens to help educate them on green infrastructure like rain gardens and rain barrels. MSD staff attended local events like Homearama, as well as other meetings, and helped disseminate information and address citizens' concerns about green infrastructure. These relationships have helped MSD overcome some citizens' resistance to change. MSD also created a detention basin credit program, where it offers credit on a customer's drainage bill if they agree to maintain their detention basins. In order to join the program, property owner must complete an application and prove the basin is meeting the program's requirements. Once the basin is credited, the owner accepts responsibility for all maintenance for the basin. MSD annually inspects each basin to ensure that it is being maintained properly. If the basin is in need of maintenance, the property owner is contacted to correct the maintenance issues. If the maintenance issues are not corrected, MSD will remove the credit from the drainage bill. The program is very popular because MSD and the property owners benefit.

Green infrastructure in Louisville-Jefferson County Park. Image courtesy of Louisville MSD.

Best practices shared by this community:

  1. Welcome stakeholder groups to provide input on any rule changes. It is a lot easier when everyone has bought-in to the changes that are made.
  2. Visit other communities that have already implemented things your community is replicating. Then you can see what is and isn't working and get first hand advice from your counterparts.

Through these and other efforts, Louisville-Jefferson County has become a Class 3 CRS community, and saves property owners a combined $2,046,783/year on flood insurance premiums.