SEQUIM — Clallam County is in the early stages of overhauling its management policies for stormwater — water created by rainfall and snow melt that runs off into sewers instead of going into the ground — Carol Creasey, hydrogeologist, told the Dungeness River Management Team.
Creasey spoke to the group on Wednesday at the Dungeness River Audubon Center.
She said that the county is still officially using a stormwater policy manual from 1992, though officials do refer to more modern materials when appropriate for a given project.
Current efforts will be bolstered by support from county commissioners, public works and county engineers that “just wasn’t there” nine years ago, as well as a “major push” from the state Department of Ecology to address stormwater management issues, Creasey said.
Of concern is the amount of development that has taken place across Clallam County over the last 25 years.
Creasey showed several examples of comparisons of aerial shots from the early 1990s and 2017 showing the increase in development in the areas around Sequim and Port Angeles, which has added a significant amount of “impermeable surface area” such as buildings, roads and other pavement that doesn’t allow water to soak back into the ground.
Instead it turns into stormwater runoff.
Land development can increase the percentage of water from rain or snowfall that turns into stormwater from around 0.3 percent of the total to 30 percent of the total, according to statistics from Washington State University.
That reduces what evaporates into the air or gets absorbed back into the ground.
The other issue stormwater presents, according to Creasey, is that as it runs along those impermeable surfaces it picks up pollutants and toxins that, eventually, wind up in the Puget Sound.
“Recent studies have shown that 75 percent of toxins in the Puget Sound come from stormwater,” Creasey said.
As far as what comes next to enhance how the county manages stormwater, there’s a long road ahead.
Creasey said that the county just received a $100,000 funding from the National Estuary Program, which in turn is funded by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. That funding will be add extra staffing capacity to the project, including hiring a consultant with stormwater expertise.
Creasey added that previous work groups and document update processes from the 2010-14 efforts will be re-started, which should help with the overall process since it won’t be necessary to start from scratch.
This will include work to develop new county ordinances for stormwater management, as well as updating existing ordinances.
This work has not begun yet, in part because Creasey and her department want to make sure to get community input to know what they want to see.
That will come in the form of public input on those work groups, as well as a series of public hearings that have not been scheduled as of yet. Creasey said that she was expecting the work groups and hearings to begin in early 2020.
To learn more about Clallam County’s stormwater management efforts, go to clallam.net/LandUse/Stormwater.html .
Conor Dowley is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].