Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mixed Econuts: Unfunded Mandates

Get ready to reach into your wallets to protect the non-existent Palouse River salmon. Dino Rossi needs to clean house at the Department of Ecology after he is elected. From last Wednesday's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Pullman accepts state money for stormwater work

Pullman City Councilman Keith Bloom doesn't mind being a rebel.

Bloom cast the lone opposing vote Tuesday as the council voted to accept $50,000 in state funding to help the city institute elements of statewide municipal stormwater permits issued by the Washington State Department of Ecology in February 2007.

The permits have been viewed locally as a heavy-handed way to manage runoff from development and control stormwater discharges into sewer systems, with a goal of reducing pollution and contamination of downstream waters. Permits also require municipalities to manage construction stormwater, detect and eliminate illegal discharges, create good housekeeping practices for existing systems and educate the public.

The council and city staff have protested the permits because of the city's unique topography and because Pullman already has many protective measures in place.

The cost to implement the five-year permit is expected to exceed $4 million. The city was given a $75,000 grant from the state in 2007, and the council has discussed creating a stormwater utility district to help pay for the permit costs.

The city is appealing the permits along with several other members of the Washington Association of Cities.

Bloom said his opposing vote was meant to be symbolic.

"A vote 'yes' means we begin the process to raise taxes. It's blood money," he said. "It's giving us $50,000 so we can turn around and pay them $500,000 (in fees). ... I'm not going to march lock step with the DOE on this."

Public Works Director Mark Workman said the money likely will be spent to organize a fee schedule for the proposed utility district. Representatives from the city's stormwater consultant, Otak, Inc., soon will begin to evaluate the impervious surfaces on about 200 residential properties throughout Pullman. The numbers will be averaged and used to generate an Equivalent Residential Unit - a fee structure for the stormwater utility customers. Fees for industrial and commercial businesses will be tabulated individually.

The council also voted in favor of upping the city's contribution to appeal the permit to $33,333.33.

Pullman joined forces with 32 other Washington cities last year to appeal the permit, arguing it is too restrictive and goes beyond what is required by the Clean Water Act and the Ecology Construction Stormwater Permit. The city originally pledged to chip in $8,333.33 for the appeal.

Workman said the increased amount is needed for the cities to battle a cross-appeal filed by the Puget Sound Alliance, which claims the stormwater permits are not restrictive enough.


Dave Gibney said...

Since I finally broke down and signed on with blooger/google, I'll respond here. It may surprise you!
I agree with Keith Bloom. The existing Department of Ecology requiements are absurd for the Palouse. Few of our creeks and rivers were even year round until we drilled wells and started pumping water. And now, someone downstrean owns water rights to water that didn't exist a 130 years ago. If I am appointed to the council, I will be very attentive to issues where the Westside view is absurd or incompatable with our reality on the ground.

Tom Forbes said...

That's nice to hear Dave!

But with the ruling Democrats in Olympia so beholden to environmentalist interests, do you realistically see a chance of us ever catching a break on stormwater?

Dave Gibney said...

Yes, you might be surprised, but there is still room for logic and compromise in this world.
On the other hand, I don't want to make my desire/willingness to serve on the Pullman City Council a partisan issue. I have always been able to work with our legislaitive delegation for the benifit of Pullman and the Palouse region.
I know you are a conservative Republican Blog, and I respect that. I am willing to discuss issues, I will try to avoid any serious party us'n'them when I post here.
After all, I can always do that on Washblog :)

Tom Forbes said...

Thanks Dave. We always welcome reasoned, well thought-out comments here, regardless of political persuasion.

Feel free to post anytime.