Washington state modifies municipal stormwater permit

OLYMPIA, WA, June 17, 2009 -- A move by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to modify municipal stormwater requirements will help cash-strapped local governments comply with the permits without compromising environmental protections...

OLYMPIA, WA, June 17, 2009 -- A move by the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) to modify municipal stormwater requirements will help cash-strapped local governments comply with the permits without compromising environmental protections.

The state's municipal stormwater permits requires dozens of local municipalities to regulate polluted runoff in Washington's most populated areas to protect water quality in streams, lakes, wetlands and Puget Sound.

Polluted runoff -- stormwater -- is the leading threat to water quality in all of the state's urban, most populated areas.

Cleaning up and managing stormwater is one of the state's highest priorities. Washington's municipal stormwater permits are the rule book for cities and counties for controlling their stormwater.

The changes apply to both the state's largest municipalities, covered under the state's Phase 1 municipal stormwater permit, and the next-largest municipalities, covered under Phase 2 permits.

"We modified these permits because of dramatic budget cutbacks we've seen in local governments that undermine the success of these permits," said Ecology Director Jay Manning. "These modifications strike a balance by providing flexibility and reducing costs for municipalities. The modifications do not reduce our focus on clean water and water quality standards."

The modifications provide requirements for low-impact development for all Phase 1 municipalities, and for Phase 2 municipalities in Western Washington, in keeping with two state Pollution Board rulings. Low-impact development includes use of vegetation, porous pavement and rain gardens to collect rainwater and reduce uncontrolled runoff.

In addition, Ecology modified the Phase 1 permit, and the Western Washington Phase 2 permit, to allow a gradual ramping up of inspection requirements over several years.

Phase 2 municipalities in Western Washington are provided a six-month extension in their due date to complete their ordinances, from August 2009 to February 2010.

Eastern Washington Phase 2 communities are provided an extension of an additional year, until Feb. 2011, to put their codes into effect and to upgrade their maintenance and operations plans.

A number of parties challenged the permits after Ecology issued them in early 2007. Ecology used a public process before it finalized the modifications. It held five workshops across the state and two public hearings.

>> View the permit modifications
>> View a summary focus sheet [.pdf]

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