Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance,, 206.297.7002
Kerry McHugh, Washington Environmental Council,, 206.902.7555
Janette Brimmer, Earthjustice,, 206.290.3749
John Felton, Rosemere Neighborhood Assoc., 360.993.4939

Board’s ruling clears the path for expanded use of green infrastructure in Washington

On Friday March 21, the Pollution Control Hearing Board upheld the Department of Ecology’s updated municipal stormwater permits confirming the state’s new standards to protect water quality in urban waterways around Puget Sound, the Columbia River and throughout Western Washington. The Board reaffirmed its ruling from five years ago that green infrastructure techniques for managing stormwater pollution are the best, most cost-effective approaches to protecting Puget Sound and the region’s rivers and streams. The Board reiterated that these approaches are required by the federal Clean Water Act and noted that Ecology’s best scientific planning and thinking went into these updated permits.

The decision represents a solid confirmation of the hard work by many people in state and local agencies, supported by a strong body of scientific research, economic development planning and communities across the state. Stormwater permits are the primary statewide regulatory tool to protect water quality and public health against polluted runoff.

“With this decision, Puget Sound and Western Washington will firmly join cities and communities throughout the U.S. that are moving toward the high quality, cost-effective stormwater pollution control represented by green infrastructure design and techniques,” said Janette Brimmer of Earthjustice. “We are pleased with the Board’s decision and look forward to robust implementation of the permits to protect Puget Sound.”

As our region’s population has grown, new threats to clean water have emerged. Industrial wastewater is now eclipsed by the toxic runoff from streets, roads and other hard surfaces which is recognized as the single-largest source of unaddressed toxic pollution entering Puget Sound. The polluted runoff is carried through our stormwater systems into rivers, streams and ultimately Puget Sound.

It is far more cost-effective to prevent pollution problems now than to clean them up later. Green infrastructure solutions — from using permeable concrete to planting rain gardens — have been broadly recognized as the least expensive, most effective way to prevent new pollution from entering our waterways. These new permits represent a significant step forward for the protection of Puget Sound and waterways throughout the state by requiring broader use of green infrastructure solutions.

Developments such as the Sedges, a mixed used complex in the heart of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, illustrate how green infrastructure is cost effective and efficient in preventing polluted runoff. The Sedges employs rain gardens, bioswales and other natural filtration techniques to keep runoff out of nearby Piper’s Creek.

“My family has been involved in the Greenwood community since its beginning, and as the community grows, we have a responsibility to do so in a way that protects Piper’s Creek and Puget Sound,” said Gary Brunt, developer of The Sedges. “Plus, the green infrastructure option ended up being more cost-effective than a traditional system for managing runoff with a detention tank and diversion pipes.”

“The ruling was a validation of our efforts,” said Chris Wilke of Puget Soundkeeper Alliance. “It’s exciting to look forward to seeing the widespread use of cost-effective green infrastructure tools at our disposal and building them into how our communities grow.”

A number of cities and counties filed appeals on the new permit requirements which went into effect last August. Under the new structure municipalities must develop new building codes to take advantage of green infrastructure as the preferred method of new and re-development on land. Washington Environmental Council, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Rosemere Neighborhood Association, represented by Earthjustice, defended the State’s new permits, which were issued in part to comply with earlier rulings Puget Soundkeeper Alliance obtained from the Pollution Control Hearings Board requiring implementation of green stormwater management techniques.

“Many communities throughout Washington have already embraced green infrastructure projects,” said Mark Powell of Washington Environmental Council. “Not only do they effectively and efficiently deal with polluted runoff, they also beautify our neighborhoods and communities.”

“We look forward to seeing green development in our community and the positive effects that will have on livability and our waters,” said John Felton of Rosemere Neighborhood Association in Vancouver.