New state stormwater regulations could make Town Center harder to build
July 15, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: July 15, 3:04 p.m.
A series of new stormwater regulations look like they might make it harder for developers interested in building in the town center area.
The rules place much tighter requirements on the amount of water that a new building can generate and let flow into a wetland.
Eric LaFrance, the city’s stormwater engineer, gave the City Council an overview of the new rules July 7.
New construction generates water by covering part of the ground, so the ground can no longer absorb the water.
As a result, more water flows off of a property into nearby streams or wetlands. When the additional water flows into the streams it can damage them.
LaFrance explained that under the new rules, new development is only permitted to generate a 20 percent increase in water over the course of a day, or 15 percent averaged over the course of a month. For comparison’s sake, LaFrance explained that the new community center, which took large measures to reduce runoff, would create a 65 percent increase.
Another standard will affect the city’s stormwater detention ponds.
These man-made ponds hold water and then slowly release it into the environment in order to reduce the amount flowing into nearby streams at any one time.
LaFrance said that, in general, the ponds allow the release of water for about three days per year. He was quick to note that is spread out over the course of the year – five minutes here, 15 minutes there, all adding up to three days.
The new standards will mean the ponds will need to work for 30 days.
“You’re going to end up with a pond that’s quite a bit larger,” he said.
Since much of the Town Center area is near a wetland, the new standard could make it much more challenging for developers to build on many of the sites, since land might need to be used for ponds instead of buildings.
The standards are being imposed by the state Department of Ecology, which is calling them their understanding of the best way to administer the federal Clean Water Act.
The next step, La France said, is to work with Ecology to find out what was behind the standards.
For example, on the 15 percent standard was it just about the amount of water, or did it have to do with the amount of other things Ecology thought might be in the water.