Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"Pullman Council mulls appeal of state stormwater permits"

Here's a legal appeal I can get behind. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
City could join other eastern Washington municipalities that already have decided to appeal

Pullman City Council members are considering an appeal to the Washington State Department of Ecology’s stormwater permit issued Jan. 17.

The council agreed Tuesday to look into joining forces with the Association of Washington Cities and municipalities across the state to challenge the permits, which are designed to manage the quality and quantity of runoff from development and to control stormwater discharges into the sewer system. The requirements are intended to reduce pollution and contamination of downstream waters.

Public Works Director Mark Workman said cities such as Ellensburg, Kennewick and Walla Walla already have decided to appeal. Each city could be required to make a legal contribution of up to $15,000. The combined cost could exceed $150,000 if the appeal includes expert witnesses and a powerful legal team.

Appeals to the permit must be filed with the Water Pollution Control Board by Feb. 16.

Washington State University, which is considered a secondary permittee, also may file for an appeal.

Councilwoman Ann Heath said she favored the appeal, although she would like more information before the city signs a contract.

“I have an obligation to mount a challenge to the extent that our limited resources will allow,” Heath said. “I believe we need to stand up if we can.”

Councilman Keith Bloom agreed. He said the cost of the appeal would be worth it if the city was relieved of the expense to comply with the permit.

“It sends a message. There (is) strength in numbers,” he said. “We’d be wasting a lot of money trying to comply with something we can’t comply with.”

Pullman officials have fought the permit from the outset. The council had hoped the Washington State Department of Ecology would call off the permit issuance until a study concluded Pullman would be able to reduce pollutants in the urban area. They believe the expense to comply and the region’s unique topography and soil types should be analyzed more closely before strict state standards are set.

The permits are required under the federal Clean Water Act and will be reissued on a five-year basis.

City officials will take part in a conference call between Associated Washington Cities and other municipalities Thursday to further discuss the appeal process.

A primary focus of the appeal is a redevelopment standard written only in western Washington stormwater permits. The standard requires property that is being redeveloped to be considered undeveloped, forested land.

Councilman Barney Waldrop said joining the appeal process could keep eastern Washington cities from being required to follow the same strict redevelopment standard.

“This could bring the state to a stop,” he said, noting that the standard is “anti-development.”

Workman urged the council and city officials to realize that the permit has officially been issued, whether or not they decide to appeal.

“We’re in the permit. It’s kind of a done deal,” he said. “We’re going to have to face the facts that we have a permit.”

The council will discuss the appeal issue further in its next meeting, set for Feb. 6.
Too bad the city has had to waste over $36,000 on PARD's frivilouse appeal. The money would have been much better spent on this stormwater appeal.

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