State environmental officials will start enforcing stricter rules to protect Western Washington's waters, and some municipalities are resisting the change.
The chairwoman of Birch Bay's Steering Committee was troubled to learn that the community had just been added to the permit list, but county officials said they will not appeal the decision.
The new rules, including more water-quality monitoring and more reporting, add a cost burden, Ferndale officials said. The city might join a coalition appealing the new stormwater permit.
Ferndale's stormwater program specialist doubted that increased monitoring of creeks would be worth the added cost.
"Obviously those are worthy goals," Wendy LaRocque said of the new permit issued by the Department of Ecology that goes into effect Aug. 1, 2013. "I don't know that paying for more monitoring is necessarily going to do anything."
Ferndale would pay $7,721 a year for water sampling and evaluations. The permit requires the payments to begin in August 2014.
Ferndale City Council members weren't immediately ready to join an appeal, which is being organized by the city of Bellevue. LaRocque said Ferndale can add its name to the appeal after the Friday, Aug. 31, deadline to file it with the Pollution Control Hearings Board.
Bill Moore, Ecology's stormwater manager, said there was a large number of appeals during the first round of stormwater permits in 2007, and he didn't expect anything different this time. Pierce County filed its appeal on Thursday, he said. There was no word on the Bellevue appeal.
While some cities balk at the added requirements, one conservation group said the permit falls short.
"We don't think that the permit goes far enough, but it's one way to get communities engaged," said Wendy Steffensen, lead scientist at RE Sources for Sustainable Communities.
The permit has other requirements besides monitoring. Developers must minimize paving and create stormwater-filtering rain gardens. Cities and counties also must step up their public education about stormwater pollution.
Birch Bay was included under the permit after RE Sources filed a petition to add the community. A prominent Birch Bay resident took offense because it already has a stormwater team on the job: the Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District, or BBWARM.
"The suggestion by some that the people of Birch Bay have not made the necessary effort to preserve and protect our most precious asset, the bay itself, is a slap in the face of our community," said Kathy Berg, chairwoman of the Birch Bay Steering Committee, in an Aug. 15 email to the Whatcom County Council and county Executive Jack Louws.
In his response, Louws said the county would not appeal the inclusion of Birch Bay. The community will need to meet the permit requirements sooner or later anyhow, he said.
"Although appealing may feel right because we are not pleased with the decision, I have decided it is not in the best interest of the county to pursue this," Louws wrote in his emailed reply.
RE Sources sought to include Birch Bay because it has known water-quality problems, its population is growing rapidly, and pollution-sensitive shellfish live in the bay. The organization's petition wasn't intended as a snub to BBWARM, Steffensen said.
"RE Sources hopes that permit coverage in conjunction with the efforts of BBWARM will result in even better water quality," she said.
Lynden also was just added to the permit list, with Birch Bay, on Aug. 1. That hasn't worried the city's public works programs and environmental coordinator, mainly because many of the requirements don't kick in until well after the permit's August 2013 start date.
"I've been trying to get other projects going before that," Mark Sandal said.
Bellingham is well-positioned to meet the permit's requirements, mainly because the city has been in the forefront of environmentally friendly stormwater control, said Bill Reilly, the city's storm and surface water manager.
"A lot of the smaller cities that haven't been in the stormwater game for a while," he said. "It's more onerous for them."
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at email@example.com or call 715-2266.