Missouri water protection funds are running out

Missouri’s ability to curb water pollution and monitor water quality could be in jeopardy as a state fee that helps fund the program is in danger of expiring.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that fees paid by businesses and municipalities for permission to discharge wastewater or divert storm runoff into Missouri rivers and streams are set to expire Sept. 1 unless they’re renewed by state lawmakers.

“You can’t continue to deficit spend, so resolution is going to have to be brought to this,” said Sen. Brad Lager, a Republican from Maryville. “My belief is that getting something resolved this session won’t be a problem.”

The Department of Natural Resources collects about $4 million a year in water permit fees.

The fees began in 1990 and comprise about a quarter of the budget for the water protection program.

In 2011, the legislature allowed these fees to expire.

A bill reauthorizing the fees passed, but it required the department’s director to sit down with industries and come up with a new fee structure.

That effort produced a draft report issued Nov. 30 that recommended fee increases for the first time since 2000 and would have raised enough additional revenue over the next four fiscal years to offset a projected $2.9 million annual deficit for the water program.

But in a final report to the legislature on Dec. 31, the department without explanation did not include the proposals to boost fees.