Under a lopsided deal reached in early January 2010, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) agreed to allow Clark County to retain inadequate stormwater standards for new development in exchange for a promise to implement county-funded stormwater mitigation projects. In February 2010, Rosemere Neighborhood Association, along with Columbia Riverkeeper, and Northwest Environmental Defense Center, appealed Ecology’s special deal with Clark County to the State Pollution Control Hearings Board in an attempt to repeal Clark County’s faulty stormwater management plan. The three conservation groups also filed a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue Clark County in federal court for violations of the Clean Water Act. Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, represents the three conservation groups in these legal challenges.
Local residents and clean water advocates argue Washington State authorized inadequate development standards in Clark County’s stormwater permit that will generate illegal stormwater pollution, and that the stormwater pollution will also harm endangered species of salmon and their habitats.
Clark County’s Phase I municipal stormwater permit is issued under the National Pollutant Discharge & Elimination System program (NPDES) and is administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency. In turn, EPA defers management and enforcement of the federal stormwater management permit to Ecology. In the appeal, Rosemere et al cite that Ecology is not properly enforcing the federal stormwater permit.
In June 2010, The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) issued public comments on Clark County’s alternative municipal Phase I stormwater permit. Clark County is home to 15 endangered species of salmon, steelhead, smelt and sturgeon. NMFS states that Clark County’s stormwater plan will not meet required goals to protect these fisheries and concludes that “adverse effects to listed (endangered) salmon will be significantly increased.” Stephen W. Landino, the Washington State Director for Habitat Conservation, states that NMFS “strongly encourage(s) the EPA to object to the issuance of this (Clark County) permit.”