Tag Archives: Department of Ecology

Amusing Monday: Videos pitch the need to change

Here are a couple of public-service-type videos that have been suggested to me for Amusing Monday.

I’m actually off duty today, as my schedule shifts around at the Kitsap Sun during the month of September, when I’ll be taking my turn working the weekends. While the change in schedule could reduce my attention to Water Ways, I’m hoping it won’t make much difference.

As for these videos, the first is a pitch for low-impact cleaning products to reduce toxic chemicals going into our state’s waterways. This Department of Ecology video is produced in the style of a TV commercial for products used in the home.

The second video, from Monterey Bay Aquarium, is an off-beat cartoon that raises the question of adaptation among species in the face of climate change. The message is that sealife can adapt if given enough time. But the current rate of change demands that people take action.
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Jay Manning visits Bremerton to talk stormwater

Jay Manning, director of the Washington Department of Ecology, was in Bremerton today to get the lowdown about low-impact stormwater management from folks at the Home Builders Association of Kitsap County.

Art Castle of the association is leading a local group of officials in the development of a “cook book” of low-impact practices designed to dovetail with state rules for managing stormwater.

Art Castle, left, pours water on pervious asphalt while Jay Manning watches. The water does not run off or pool up; it just runs through.
Kitsap Sun photo

The parking lot at the office of the Home Builders Association happens to be built with pervious asphalt and various kind of pervious pavers. Manning watched as Castle poured water from a hose onto the pervious asphalt. No runoff or pooling was evident, as the water penetrated straight into the pavement.

Castle was glad to have some time to talk with Manning, a native of South Kitsap, because the Home Builders group has run into some regulatory obstacles with respect to the upcoming “cookbook.”

For example, engineers are debating how fast water can pass through pavement within a given design and whether that rate of penetration will hold up over time. Pervious pavement depends on creating “pores” during construction and keeping those pores open as time goes on. Sometimes the owner must use a pressure washer to reopen the pores.

In this example, the debate is about finding an acceptable rate of water penetration for a given design. If the assumed rate is too low, a developer will be required to build a backup stormwater system, such as a pond. That raises the cost of development and discourages the use of low-impact methods.

If the assumed rate of penetration is higher than what actually occurs in a heavy storm, then the water runs off the pavement with no place to go. That leads to flooding of streets and other problems.

Those are the kinds of issues that Castle wanted to address with Manning.

Manning told me that this meeting comes at an opportune time, because his agency must decide how to respond to a recent ruling by the Pollution Control Hearings Board that mandates the use of low-impact development wherever “feasible.” See Kitsap Sun story of Aug. 8.

Manning asked Castle to describe when low-impact development would not be feasible. Castle said he knows of three conditions that would preclude the use of LID: on sites with steep, unstable slopes; in places where you find especially dense clays that cannot pass water; and in areas with high groundwater levels that prevent water from soaking in.

Manning said he faces a decision about whether to appeal the hearing board’s decision to court or else live with it.

“If we live with this decision,” he said to me, “then what’s that going to mean for the Phase 1 permit (larger cities and counties) and the Phase 2 permit (smaller cities and counties)?”

Basically, state requirements would have to be rewritten.

The specific ruling (PDF 212 kb) by the Pollution Control Hearings Board was for Phase 1 jurisdictions, but it signals the board’s position for the Phase 2 hearing, scheduled for October, Manning said. If Ecology does not appeal the ruling to the courts, agency lawyers could try to settle some key issues before the October hearing, he said.

Environmental enforcement: a matter of dollars and sense

When it comes to protecting the environment, I think we’ll be hearing a lot more about enforcement in the coming weeks.

I’ve attended several meetings of the Puget Sound Partnership where people have said that we don’t need new rules; we need existing rules to be enforced.

You don’t have to look very hard to see the problem. At the county level, planners and hearing examiners impose rules that sound like they would protect the environment — including up to 100-foot stream and shoreline buffers in some cases. But once a person completes a project arduously after having to search for online installment loans to fund the project, there is no guarantee that he won’t fill in the wetland or cut down the trees in a buffer area.

Unless someone complains, there is no way to know whether the buffers survive over time. Without enforcement against those who violate the rules, the system becomes abusive against those property owners who act in good faith. That seems pretty obvious, right?

Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer, a member of the Ecosystem Coordination Board for the Partnership, seems to understand the frustration of people who see violations but can’t get quick action. In many cases, the penalties are so low that some people violate the rules under the assumption that fines are just the cost for doing what they want.

In a Monday briefing I covered for today’s Kitsap Sun, Bauer expressed support for a more efficient system, including a process that would bring violations to a hearing examiner instead of district court.

I expect that this issue will be part of this year’s county budget discussions. While the budget is growing ever tighter, I’m sure the commissioners understand that you can’t really address this code enforcement problem without additional staff.

The same thing goes for state agencies — whether we’re talking about the Department of Fish and Wildlife, which our protects our wild creatures; the Department of Natural Resources, which addresses logging practices; or the Department of Ecology, which protects our land and waters from pollution. By the way Lisa Stiffler did a nice job examining Ecology’s enforcement problems in yesterday’s Seattle PI.

Back to the local level, health departments must deal with sewage, stormwater, garbage and hazardous waste problems.

Bill Ruckleshaus of the Puget Sound Partnership often talks about how his organization will not create new regulations. The Partnership simply intends to shine a light on the best actions taking place among governments, businesses and volunteer groups.

To the Partnership’s credit, enforcement has already been part of the general discussion. I found the following in the discussion paper about habitat and land use, which covers rules for protecting critical areas:

Most jurisdictions report a lack of funding to accomplish those tasks and further lack the staff to monitor whether the protections remain after a period of years (beyond the period where they hold bonds or other security for a project). Finally, many jurisdictions also report a lack of adequate funding for general code enforcement efforts (where activities take place outside of the permitting process).

The next step is to address the money issues, both inside and outside of state and local agencies. Until someone faces the financial hurdles, it’s just talk.