Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Communities in our part of the state generally are not thought of as “urban.” Even so, local governments in the 9th District are being forced to comply with urban-level stormwater management regulations at significant cost to taxpayers (including our major employers). This has raised concerns in the communities affected, and as your legislator, I want you to know where things stand.
Recently, I and my 9th District seatmates wrote to Governor Gregoire in hopes of opening a dialogue with her and the Department of Ecology. It was Ecology that decided the cities of Asotin, Clarkston and Pullman, and Asotin County would be forced to meet the same stormwater-management standards as big Puget Sound-area cities – based on population or population density, with no regard for how much (or how little) it rains.
The expense of complying with these one-size-fits-all regulations has taxpayers rightfully concerned about their burdens. In February, an overwhelming majority of Clarkston voters overturned the fee/tax the city imposed last fall, equal to $60 per year, to fund a joint stormwater management effort with Asotin and Asotin County. How the city will come up with its share of the funding in light of the voters' action remains uncertain. Also, the Asotin County Commission recently received a petition (signed by 1,300 people, which is 15% of the county's registered voters) requesting reconsideration of its stormwater fees and enforcement program.
Pullman has been hit especially hard by the cost of compliance, and by extension so has Washington State University, which has more impervious surfaces, such as roofs, sidewalks and parking lots, which are associated with stormwater runoff, than any other entity in the city.
Our letter to the governor raised concerns about the economic and financial consequences of Ecology's decision. For example, we told the governor how troubling it is that the state is slashing support for public higher-education institutions while forcing WSU to divert scarce resources to meet exorbitant stormwater regulations.
We also pointed out how our state, unlike Oregon, is forcing the higher stormwater standards on areas that did meet the density standard (1,000 people per square mile) but not the population standard (50,000 residents). Pullman, Asotin, Clarkston and Asotin County are nowhere close to that, individually.
We made it clear to Gov. Gregoire that we could pursue changes related to stormwater management through the legislative process, but would prefer to talk first and see if that bears any fruit. I'll let you know if it does.