“Stormwater Management” – Much more than protecting home and people from too much water!
I shared with Clallam County Senior Planner Steve
Gray with the Department of Community Development
(DCD), the vision that comes to my mind is a way
of protecting property and lives when there’s
too much rain, and it overflows, creating
I was growing up, that’s exactly what it meant:
drainage pipes as a way to divert water from
flooding our yard during the rainy season.
agreed that most people understand stormwater
management in the same way.
meaning of the term has been changed, however.
Today, “stormwater” means “the water
that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved
streets, highways, and parking lots. It can also
come from hard grassy surfaces like lawns, play
fields, and from graveled roads and parking
lots.” (Definition by the WA State DOE).
I live in a rural area where
there’s an average rainfall of 17 inches per
not much! Further
out toward the coast – past Forks, Washington
– the rainfall increases to as much as 144
inches a year – but that’s in the rainforest,
and no one lives there.
Clallam County already has a
stormwater management ordinance in place, under
the direction of the Department of Public Works.
It addresses water “quantity” – in other
words, working toward solutions to flooding.
It’s a fairly small document, compared
to later models, consisting of approximately 10
When the county
commissioners passed the latest version of the
Critical Areas Code, the 1992 version of the
DOE’s “model” stormwater management plan
was incorporated by reference.
It falls under the administration of the
DCD, and covers water “quality”
“problems” in addition to “quantity”
said that this plan “only” covers
approximately 30% of the county (actually, it’s
closer to 50%, according to a former county
The Critical Areas Code has
been considered so onerous that citizens gathered
signatures on an initiative to repeal it. (That
initiative was short-circuited, however, from
reaching the voters at the ballot box by the same
county commissioners who have placed the proposed
stormwater management plan on the “priority”
was thrown into the courts, where it will be
heard at the appeals level on Sept. 4.)
Now our rural county is looking at passing a more all-inclusive “stormwater management ordinance” based on a new, “one-size-fits-all” model, over 1,000 pages written by the state Department of Ecology. It sets out far more stringent rules and regulations, and would be very costly both in time and money to both landowners and the county taxpayers, Gray admits.
I asked Mr. Gray if there
were any other rural counties that have passed an
ordinance of this magnitude. He responded that
they were “looking” for other rural counties,
but hadn’t found any so far.
In other words, our county is the first.
The guidelines under
consideration will cover the entire county, and
will affect any property that has 2,000 or more
square feet of “impervious surfaces”, and/or
7,000 or more square feet of “land-disturbing
The square footage adds up quickly, and
would, according to Gray, affect everyone who
wishes to build a new home and possibly add on
includes roof tops, walkways, patios, driveways,
parking lots or storage areas, concrete or
asphalt paving, gravel roads or parking areas,
packed earthen materials, and oiled, macadam or
“Land-disturbing activities” include
any activity that results in a movement of earth
or a change in the existing soil cover (both
vegetative and nonvegetative) and/or the existing
Activities include, but are not limited
to, construction, clearing, grading, filling,
excavation, and compaction that is associated
with stabilization of structures and road
Ed O’Brien, one of the
authors of the DOE model plan, will be one of the
speakers at the planning commission’s workshop
on Wednesday, August 7.
We’ll keep you up-to-date as this new layer of bureaucracy and regulations unfolds.
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