Soundkeeper Appeals Municipal Stormwater Permits issued by WA Dept. of Ecology - Puget Soundkeeper Alliance

On July 31, 2019, Puget Soundkeeper appealed the Phase I and Phase II Municipal Stormwater Permits issued by WA Dept of Ecology. These permits regulate stormwater from developed or built-out environments in cities and counties in western Washington.

Thanks to Soundkeeper’s 2007 appeal of these permits, Low Impact Development (LID) is now required in Washington for new and redevelopment (see our Nature’s Scorecard tool for our rating of municipalities on incorporating LIDs.)

Despite the work being done, stormwater continues to be the number one source of toxic pollution to Puget Sound.

The appeal is to the Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB), an administrative board providing judicial oversight of clean water permits issued by Washington State agencies.

Our arguments raise the following contentions:

  1. The “Best Management Practice (BMP) Approach” to stormwater management for new and redevelopment is too relaxed, and creates off ramps that stand in the way of actually reducing stormwater pollution.
  2. The permits fall short on addressing stormwater on a watershed wide basis when they require the creation of watershed plans to address stormwater pollution and the development practices that lead to that pollution, but do not actually require permittees to implement the plans.
  3. The permit’s system for requiring permittees to notify Ecology when water quality standards are violated and to then address those violations is not working because the permits do not set enforceable deadlines and requirements for meeting standards. There is urgency to address this permit shortfall because we know that stormwater is impairing waterways and causing salmon to die before they spawn.
  4. The Phase I and II permits continue to perpetuate a false distinction between some of the permittees allowing large, urbanized areas such as Everett, Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland to be treated much more leniently for permit requirements to address the already-built environment with retrofits designed to reduce impervious surfaces that are the cause of polluted runoff. These cities should be treated similar to Phase I cities such as Seattle and Tacoma in order to meet the legal requirements that stormwater pollution to be reduced to the maximum extent practicable.

Our goal is an order from the PCHB requiring Ecology to rewrite the permits to comply with legal requirements and correct the defects which make parts of the permit ineffectual. Puget Soundkeeper is represented by Earthjustice in this appeal.

We look forward to reporting back to you on more news about the permit as it progresses.