Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quotes of the Day

That’s a classic example of taxation without representation
- Port of Whitman Commissioner Bob Gronholz
Even a guy like Ed, you can only put on so many fees before he decides to move the company [SEL] to Mexico
- Whitman County Commissioner Jerry Finch
Well, Moscow’s not too far away
- Port of Whitman County executive director Joe Poire

All these great quotes on the Department of Ecology's business-killing stormwater requirements for "bubble city" Pullman are from the article below from yesterday's Whitman County Gazette:
Pullman stormwater fees

State and federal regulations on stormwater runoff in Pullman could mean the city will have to institute a series of fees for businesses and residences that have surfaces which collect precipitation and send water into the city’s stormwater system.

The aim is to minimize the amount of water that is discharged into waterways via storm runoff.

The state Department of Ecology was directed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to permit stormwater discharge in all cities after the Clean Water Act was amended to include stormwater in 1987.

Rob Buchert, Pullman’s new Stormwater Services Manager, said the city was one of 10 “bubble cities” the state identified as being in need of a stormwater permit.

Instituting the necessary infrastructure and monitoring systems to treat the water released into waterways is estimated to cost more than $4.4 million.

“As efficient as we want it to be, there are a tremendous amount of requirements and deadlines we are forced to meet,” said Buchert.

Most of the money to cover those expenses will be generated by fees imposed on properties with impervious surfaces that send runoff water into streams and rivers. The fees will cost $7 per month for every 3,500 square feet of impervious surface on a person’s property.

“That’s a classic example of taxation without representation,” commented Port of Whitman Commissioner Bob Gronholz.

Those fees will hit companies at the Port of Whitman’s Pullman facilities particularly hard, said Debbie Snell, port facilities manager.

The port has sold off most of its property in the Pullman Industrial Park, but the new fees could be a significant hit to companies who have bought that land.

“This is fairly minor to us,” said Snell. “But it will definitely affect our tenants, and Schweitzer especially.”

Susan Fagan, spokesperson for Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories (SEL), said 800,000 square feet of impervious surface on the SEL campus could bring about fees in excess of $20,000. Those extra fees could force the company to rethink expansion plans, she added.

“Even a guy like Ed, you can only put on so many fees before he decides to move the company to Mexico,” commented County Commissioner Jerry Finch.

Finch added his own properties throughout Pullman could add an additional $10,000 to his annual utility bill.

Not only are companies at the Pullman Industrial Park facing steep fees, future tenants at the port’s Locust Grove Industrial Park north of Pullman may have to consider the costs. The port last November purchased 53 acres of land near the junction of State Route 27 and the Albion-Pullman Highway for the development of the new industrial park.

“The port will certainly take the new rules under consideration, but it won’t stop us,” said Snell. “We want to have the development, but we also want to be good environmental stewards.”

Port officials hope the new industrial park, which they intend to annex into Pullman, will be home to several spin-off businesses from its Innovation Partnership Zone and the Green Information Technology Alliance, which is researching technologies that will re-use energy from supercomputers.

“As we develop Locust Grove, these new fees will have to be taken into consideration,” said Snell. “It is unfortunate, but the money has to come from somewhere.”

Tenants at the new industrial park will have to minimize the amount of impervious surfaces on their lots in the future.

“Well, Moscow’s not too far away,” Joe Poire, port executive director, said, implying the fees may push new businesses across the border to Idaho to avoid the stormwater costs.

The fees will pay for a new department in the city’s public works to administer the nearly 1,000 stormdrains and 80 pipes that discharge water into streams.

Recent water quality tests by the DOE have turned up high water temperatures and high levels of pH and fecal coliform bacteria in the South Fork of the Palouse River. [much of which came from the sewage treatment plant in Moscow that was recently fined by the EPA. ironic, isn't it?- tf]


Scotty said...

Time for gravel parking lots, dirt roads, and wood sidewalks? I am all for it.

April E. Coggins said...

Scotty, that is their goal. At the water summit last year, the Palouse-Clearwater Institute was held up as being a good example of a "green" building, partially because they have a gravel parking lot. I laughed because I have one of those too! Where's my medal?

Michael said...

Except that I remember Spokane County running afoul of EPA air quality standards for particulates a few years ago because of - gravel roads. There's no way to win with these people.