County studies stormwater rules

Local governments have until the end of 2017 to implement some practices and the flexibility to tailor the practices to local conditions.

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— New stormwater management regulations announced Wednesday will affect Walla Walla County, but not just yet.

The new municipal stormwater permit for most populated areas of Eastern Washington call for counties and cities to step up actions to control polluted runoff beginning two years from now. But the permit gives local governments in Eastern Washington until the end of 2017 to implement some practices and the flexibility to tailor the practices to local conditions.

Joy Bader, Walla Walla County stormwater program manager, said she and others will spend the next several months looking at what changes will be needed to municipal codes to comply with the new rules. The work will put additional demands on county staff, but it was not unanticipated, she said.

A major change will be requirements to employ "low impact development" techniques to manage stormwater and keep it from going directly into lakes, streams or rivers. Bader said examples are stormwater swales, "green roofs" and permeable pavement that allows stormwater to filter into underlying soil.

Another major change will be to existing rules for monitoring requirements to measure how effective stormwater management programs are in preventing pollution.

In a release, state Department of Ecology officials said $1 million in state funds are expected to develop and provide low-impact development training in the public and private sectors for the next five years.

"It's a whole lot easier and cheaper to prevent runoff and pollution as we plan our developments, than to try to manage stormwater after the fact. Importantly, the new permit gives local governments the time they need to develop their programs so they can comply with new permit requirements," Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said in a release.

The state regulations stem from the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II permit Walla Walla County has operated under since 2007. Along with Walla Walla County, five other counties and 18 cities in Eastern Washington are under the permit's jurisdiction.

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