A new phase of state stormwater regulations has provoked protests from cities and counties across Washington state.
Southwestern Washington’s Cowlitz County has joined a coalition of 13 cities, led by the city of Bellevue, challenging the state's new proposed stormwater regulations as too costly and burdensome. The county just brought itself into compliance with the current stormwater regulations a year ago after several challenges by area contractors, who argued the regulations were too restrictive and urged commissioners to fight them.
The coalition has appealed the new regulations to the state Pollution Control Hearings Board, saying that they lack the flexibility local governments need to cover the dozens of cities and counties that fall under the permit’s purview.
The regulations, handed down by the Department of Ecology as part of the county's stormwater permit, would become effective in August 2013, and need to be fully implemented by 2018.
Clark, Pierce, King and Snohomish counties are also protesting plans for similar changes, including multi-million dollar mandates for additional stormwater monitoring, complex watershed studies and planning for areas outside the county's jurisdiction. Regulations for those four counties, which fall under a different set of regulations due to their size, would go into effect in 2015.
Governments with a separate storm sewer system must have a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, which are issued by Washington’s Department of Ecology under the Clean Water Act.
In 1999, the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, along with Clark, King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, were required to get permits, and have been classified as the "Phase 1" permit holders since then. In 2007, the state expanded permits to more than 100 "Phase 2" counties and cities across the state, including Vancouver, Bellevue, Spokane and Yakima.
Bill Moore, the Department of Ecology's stormwater manager, told the Bellingham Herald that many appeals were filed when the first round of stormwater permits were issued in 2007, and he didn't expect anything different this time.