Walla Walla County wades into ordinance on stormwater

Landowners whose property contributes to stormwater runoff may be assessed a monthly fee.

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WALLA WALLA — What washes off the pavement, down a drain and is going to be the subject of a new Walla Walla County ordinance?

Answer, stormwater.

The new ordinance, which will apply to all unincorporated areas, is intended to be "the county’s blueprint for controlling and managing stormwater," said Joy Bader, stormwater program manager. A draft of the ordinance is expected to go before county commissioners in early September.

A major component of the new ordinance will be establishment of a stormwater utility to manage, govern and fund activities intended to make sure only water goes down storm drains. The utility’s activities will be funded by existing funds, grants and a stormwater service charge where landowners of parcels contributing to stormwater runoff will be assessed a monthly fee.

While plans call for adopting the code this fall, implementing the stormwater management utility will not take place until 2010, Bader said.

Residential parcels, which contribute less runoff relative to other land uses, will pay a flat fee, which is expected to be between $2 and $2.50 per month, or about $24 to $30 per year. Non-residential parcels will be assessed a fee based on the actual amount of impervious area on that specific parcel.

The stormwater utility will be under the county Public Works Department, but will not require hiring any additional people, said Randy Glaeser, county public works director.

The new ordinance is being driven by the need to comply with phase II of the National Pollutant Discharge Eliminations System stormwater permit that applies Eastern Washington, Bader said. The NPDES prohibits discharge of contaminated waters to storm drain systems and requires stormwater management measures at new construction and redevelopment sites that disturb more than an acre.

The county is currently in the third year of a five-year process to implement its stormwater management plan. Walla Walla County is among seven counties and 18 cities in Eastern Washington that fall under the jurisdiction of the NPDES Phase II stormwater permit, which is administered by the state Department of Ecology.

While the county is already doing much to meet the requirements, "now it is a more formalized process," Glaeser said.

One "huge component" will be outreach and education to teach people about new stormwater rules, and "there is a larger requirement for inspection and enforcement" as well, Glaeser said.

Although the new ordinance will make changes in how stormwater and runoff is handled, it will not prohibit activities such as lawn watering and car washing, Bader said.

In regard to those activities, Ecology only asks that people "washing cars direct soapy water away from storm drains and instead allow the water to seep into the ground, where it is less likely to have an adverse impact on water quality," she said.

more information
Copies of the new draft stormwater ordinance are available by calling 524-2727. Information is also available online at tinyurl.com/luaq2a

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