WENATCHEE — Chelan County commissioners will adopt new rules next month for controlling stormwater runoff at construction sites.
But they aren’t happy about it.
“We’re supposed to feel good about having adopted our own plan, even though it looks like everybody’s elses (in Eastern Washington),” said Commissioner Keith Goehner.
The commissioners met Tuesday with Terry Wittmeier, a municipal stormwater specialist for the state Department of Ecology, to lay out the county’s concerns about adopting the new rules. The county is required to adopt them by Feb. 16.
Earlier this month, the county Planning Commission rejected the proposed rules, saying they would cost too much for the county to enforce and for developers to follow. Instead of making a decision, county commissioners gave Paula Cox, assistant county engineer, permission to write a letter to Ecology asking for some relief from the requirements.
Wittmeier wrote back last week, saying there is no wiggle room. The county must adopt the rules or face penalties.
He said the county should have complained three years ago, when Ecology first adopted the minimum requirements for controlling stormwater runoff. The state developed the plan; each county and city must then adopt its own plan that includes the state’s required elements.
The only latitude the individual government agencies have is making the rules more stringent if they want.
Commissioner Ron Walter asked why counties and cities have to go through a public process if Ecology is dictating the language of the rules.
“I question the value of our public process … if the rules are already set in stone,” he said.
Lori Barnett, community development director for the city of East Wenatchee, said the planning process for the new stormwater rules began back in 1999. She said Ecology held numerous meetings in the Wenatchee area, and comments were solicited from developers and others who would be affected by the new rules.
Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and Chelan and Douglas counties have been working together for years to prepare, she added.
“This is really not a surprise to anybody,” she said.
After the meeting, Goehner said the commissions will most likely adopt the construction runoff rules on Feb. 16.
“There really isn’t a lot we can do about it,” he said. “Our frustration is that we want to make sure it’s an open and transparent process. But when the process has a predetermined outcome, where do you go with that? We ask people to come and give testimony, but it really doesn’t matter. … The die has already been cast.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152