Clallam County request for stormwater permit stay denied

PORT ANGELES — The state Pollution Control Hearings Board has denied Clallam County’s request for a stay in the applicability of a Phase II stormwater permit for the Port Angeles Urban Growth Area.

The board’s order denying the motion to stay, which was filed Sept. 17, said the county’s appeal of the state Department of Ecology’s determination that the Port Angeles Urban Growth Area (PAUGA) requires a Phase II stormwater permit failed to show that a stay for the Western Washington Phase II Municipal Stormwater National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System General Permit was necessary as the litigation moves forward.

“The Board concludes that Clallam County has not made a prima facie showing of either a likelihood of success in challenging Ecology’s decision to require coverage, or irreparable harm anticipated from being subject to the Permit during the appeal period,” the board wrote.

Clallam County filed its appeal of the Ecology’s requirement of a Phase II stormwater permit July 30.

The county argues that Ecology is reversing its own 2012 decision that the area surrounding Port Angeles did not meet the criteria for being subject to a Phase II permit, despite the county telling Ecology that water-quality has not worsened — and in some respects had improved.

Development cost

County officials have said that being subject to a Phase II permit would result in increased cost for development in the PAUGA and that Ecology has offered a one-time $95,000 grant to prepare for permit implementation.

The county would likely need to hire additional staff to fulfill the requirements of the permit.

“To me, the whole issue really highlights the challenges of having a one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately what we’re talking about is water quality, and we want to make sure we’re not putting dirty and contaminated water into the Strait,” said Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias.

“We’ve got pretty good data to show the county is not doing that.”

Ozias said he was not surprised that the board rejected the stay, but said he still believes Clallam County has a strong case.

Director of the Department of Community Development Mary Ellen Winborn said the board used “strong” language in its order denying the stay.

“It is the Pollution Control Hearings Board; I don’t think they have much sympathy for us,” Winborn said. “We have a lot of good merits. There’s a lot of reasons they should reconsider the permit, but we’ll see if they can be objective.”

Clallam County has provided scientific evidence that water quality has generally improved in streams within the UGA, with the exception of Lees Creek, according to the notice of appeal.

The county said in its appeal that Ecology reversed its 2012 decision in part because of the “factually unsupported conclusion that more than 1,000 persons reside” in the UGA.

In 2012, Ecology determined that the Port Angeles UGA did not meet the criteria for permit coverage, but listed several recommendations.

It asked the county to implement a draft comprehensive stormwater management plan, which included a clearing and grading ordinance, new code to prohibit illicit discharges to stormwater conveyance system and updated requirements for drainage design and review.

Notification

In August 2018, Ecology informed the county that it would be listed as a new permitee that would be issued July 2019.

“Unfortunately, the county has not finalized its DRAFT Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plan nor has it adopted drainage requirements for small projects, a clearing and grading ordinance or code prohibiting illicit discharges,” Ecology wrote in its Aug. 1, 2018, letter.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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