BBWARM meeting to discuss Birch Bay national stormwater permit issue

Published on Wed, Jun 20, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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The Birch Bay Watershed and Aquatic Resources Management District (BBWARM) advisory committee will discuss the state’s decision to include Birch Bay in a national stormwater permit at the committee’s June 20 meeting (this evening).

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) has decided to include the Birch Bay urban growth area (UGA) in Whatcom County’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, effective August 1 of 2013. This determination is tentative pending a final DOE decision. Once the decision is final next August, Whatcom County government will have the opportunity to appeal.

DOE’s determination comes in response to RE Sources for Sustainable Communities’ petition to include both Blaine and Birch Bay as a “bubble city” in the national stormwater permit. DOE determined Blaine and its UGA  need not be included in their own separate permit because their populations are not high enough. RE Sources’ national stormwater permit petition is the first DOE staff have received.

I’ve written previously about the national stormwater permit issue and how it pertains to Birch Bay here. RE Sources contends that population growth in Birch Bay and the water body’s degrading quality means it needs to be included in Whatcom County’s collective stormwater permit, which includes the Bellingham, Ferndale and Lake Whatcom UGAs.

Currently, all cities in Whatcom County with more than 10,000 people and the above-mentioned UGAs are included in the national permit. The six main requirements of the permit are public education, looking for illegal connections to stormwater drainage, construction and post construction stormwater management, pollution prevention and operations and maintenance.

The Whatcom County stormwater division is responsible for managing the permit requirements for the county’s UGAs, with responsibilities spread over different departments such as health, public works and planning. The county has been developing and enacting policies to fit these requirements since January 2007.

RE Sources has commended the BBWARM district and advisory committee for the work they’ve done improving water quality in Birch Bay. BBWARM’s efforts line up with many of the national stormwater permit requirements, but RE Sources representatives say Birch Bay’s population growth will create impacts beyond what BBWARM can address.

County stormwater staff have said they’re not yet sure what direct implications Birch Bay’s inclusion in Whatcom County’s stormwater permit would have. This issue will most likely be discussed in more detail at tonight’s BBWARM meeting.

See the agenda for this evening posted below, along with other informational documents prepared for the BBWARM committee members. The meeting starts at 6 p.m., tonight, June 20, at fire station 62, 9001 Semiahmoo Parkway in west Blaine. Click here to find out more about the BBWARM district.

BBWARM 6-20-12 Meeting Agenda and Advisory Committee Members Packet


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