From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
The Environmental Protection Agency has again stated its intention to make Moscow face intensive stormwater regulations, but this time the City Council is unlikely to fight it.
The council's Public Works/Finance Committee agreed Monday night that Moscow should accept being listed under the EPA's Stormwater Phase II program instead of trying to appeal the decision. Public Works Director Les MacDonald has estimated it will cost the city about $300,000 a year for the first five years of the program to meet its requirements.
Moscow will be required to develop a comprehensive stormwater management program and obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit if it is listed as a regulated small municipal separate storm system under Phase II.
The regulations are designed to manage the quality and quantity of runoff from development and to control stormwater discharge, as well as reduce downstream pollution and contamination.
Moscow was first alerted to the EPA's plans in June 2007. The City Council decided at the time to send the EPA a letter asking for control of its own stormwater system.
The EPA spent the last year reviewing Moscow's situation. MacDonald said EPA officials spoke to him in June and said the new data they'd found confirmed their decision that Moscow should be listed. For example, tests showed that fecal coliform contamination in parts of Paradise Creek is too high.
"City staff has been working on trying to track down where some of that's coming on so we can try to stop it where we can," MacDonald said.
MacDonald said Moscow already has some programs in place that will be required by the Phase II listing, although some of those will need to be beefed up. The city does not actively process stormwater right now, but will have to. The program also requires public education programs, detection and elimination of illicit discharge, and construction run-off control.
He said Moscow will have some flexibility within the program if it chooses not to fight it. The city likely will be able to set milestones for itself and gradually meet the requirements of the program over five years.
MacDonald conducted an analysis of the program's potential effects on the city last year. Based on the analysis, MacDonald estimated the city will need to add four-and-a-half staff members to cover the needs of the program, as well as buy an additional street sweeper and inspection equipment. He estimated the cost would be $300,000 a year on average.
City Supervisor Gary Riedner said Moscow likely will consider a stormwater utility fee to help cover the cost of the program, and MacDonald agreed.
The city of Pullman also is dealing with stormwater regulations from a Washington State Department of Ecology permit issued in early 2007. The estimated cost for the city to meet requirements in the permit's first five years is $4.4 million and the Pullman City Council is contemplating a stormwater utility fee to help recover the costs. Landowners' fees would be based on the amount of impervious surface on their property, and the city is hoping to generate about $800,000 per year.
MacDonald said he's not sure why there is such a big difference between Pullman and Moscow's cost estimates, and said his estimate was "very rough."
"It will likely change," MacDonald said. "It could go up. I doubt it would go down much."
Moscow Public Works/Finance Committee member Wayne Krauss initially expressed interest in fighting the listing.
"I think it's really unfortunate that the federal government, in this case the EPA, stands there with this big hammer over our heads threatening us with a bunch of fines if we don't bow under," he said.
He asked about the city's potential to fight the listing. City Attorney Randy Fife said Moscow has not historically been successful in fighting federal regulations and that the government takes the view that cities eventually comply, one way or another.
"Kind of what you're saying is we're screwed," Krauss said.
Krauss and committee members Dan Carscallen and John Weber eventually decided to recommend to the City Council as a whole not to fight the regulation. Weber said it would be better for Moscow to accept the program than put itself "in the middle of the radar screen" of the EPA.