Puget Soundkeeper, Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper, 206-297-7002
Will Hall, Snohomish County Surface Water Management Director, 425-388-6410

EVERETT, WA — On December 4, Puget Soundkeeper and Snohomish County filed a consent decree resolving a Clean Water Act case about the county’s management of polluted stormwater runoff.

The county agreed to update its development code to include expanded requirements for low-impact development techniques. Low-impact development, or LID, uses native plants and drainage solutions like rain gardens and permeable pavement to prevent stormwater runoff from carrying pollution into creeks, streams, rivers, lakes and bays. These techniques are proven to be cost-effective and can also protect against flooding during heavy rainfall events. Snohomish County’s code now requires compliance with new statewide requirements for LID, and promotes the use of LID – an outcome that all parties and the public can celebrate.

Soundkeeper has worked for over a decade to ensure that stormwater discharge permits issued to cities and counties in the state of Washington include LID.

“This is a significant milestone,” said Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper Executive Director. “The way we’ve developed land in the past — paving over everything and funneling rainwater through pipes directly into our waterways — results in pollution and flooding that’s harmful to public health and our water resources. Using greener development techniques is a common-sense way for our region to deal with some of the worst pollution problems we have.”

“Reducing polluted stormwater runoff is important to protect public health and our natural resources,” said Barb Mock, Snohomish County’s Director of Planning and Development Services. “By working together, we found new ways to promote the use of LID that will reduce the environmental impact of development.”

Snohomish County is the third most populous county in Washington, with over 780,000 residents. Stormwater from the county flows to the Snohomish, Sammamish and Stillaguamish Rivers, as well as into creeks, lakes and directly into Puget Sound. Soundkeeper has been working with the county since late 2015 on their compliance with LID requirements and has a collaborative relationship with county staff.

“We’re excited about the results of our work together,” said Soundkeeper Staff Attorney Katelyn Kinn. “We’re here to support Snohomish County as they improve their stormwater management practices. Filing a lawsuit brought Snohomish County to the table to reexamine their compliance with clean water laws, and now we think they are a regional leader and set an example for other counties and cities around Puget Sound.”

The settlement also requires Snohomish County to implement stormwater retrofit projects in the Little Bear Creek watershed near Mill Creek. The retrofits will protect the creek from toxic road runoff and improve habitat for native salmon and trout. And as part of the settlement process, Snohomish County changed their Stormwater Management Plan, resulting in a model that other counties can follow when working on Clean Water Act compliance.

Soundkeeper, working with Washington Environmental Council, just released a comprehensive report tracking stormwater management in 82 cities and counties in the Puget Sound watershed. While some are going above and beyond, more than half are failing to incorporate LID requirements.

Puget Soundkeeper was represented in this action by Smith & Lowney PLLC, and attorneys Alyssa Englebrecht and Richard Smith.