County of Asotin
Regional Stormwater Program
Inform. Educate. Prevent.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stormwater is rain and snow melt that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, paved streets, highways, and parking lots. As water runs off these surfaces, it can pick up pollutants such as oil, fertilizers, pesticides, soil, trash, and animal waste. From here, the water might flow directly into a local stream, river, or lake. Or, it may go into a storm drain and continue through storm pipes until it is released untreated into a local waterway.
Stormwater is a problem because it is often polluted and can harm human health, drinking water, and interfere with the habitat for fish and wildlife. Untreated stormwater contains toxic metals, organic compounds, and bacterial and viral pathogens. It is not safe for people to drink and is not recommended for swimming. In some areas, gravelly soils allow rapid infiltration of storm water. Untreated stormwater discharging to the ground can contaminate aquifers used for drinking water. Virtually all of our urban creeks, streams, and rivers are harmed by urban stormwater runoff. Stormwater is the leading contributor to water quality pollution of urban waterways. In fact, about one-third of the state’s waters are too polluted to meet state water quality standards – frequently stormwater is the major cause of this pollution. Urban development causes significant changes in patterns of stormwater runoff – leading to increased flooding during the wet season and decreased stream flows during the dry season.
In 1987, Congress changed the federal Clean Water Act by declaring the discharge of stormwater from certain industries and municipalities to be a point source of pollution. Due to this change, certain stormwater discharges now require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to discharge to surface waters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the Department of Ecology (Ecology) the authority to implement these permits in Washington State.
The EPA stormwater regulations establish two phases (Phase I and Phase II) for the stormwater permit program. Phase I was established in 1990 and requires municipalities with populations of 100,000 or greater to implement a stormwater management program as a means to control polluted discharges from stormwater systems. Phase II was established in 1999, and expands the requirement for stormwater permits to all municipalities located in urbanized areas and to construction sites between one and five acres. The cities of Asotin, Clarkston, and urbanized parts of Asotin County are considered to be part of the Clarkston Urbanized Area.
A stormwater system includes roads with drainage systems, municipal streets, catch basins, curbs, gutters, ditches, man-made channels, or storm drains designed for stormwater collection and conveyance that discharges into waters of the United States and that are owned or operated by a state, city, town, county, or other public body.
The City of Asotin, City of Clarkston and Asotin County have signed an Interlocal Cooperation Agreement to work together to implement a stormwater management program that is designed to meet the requirements of the Phase II permit. There are six elements in the Phase II permit, termed “minimum control measures” that must be implemented to stay in compliance with the Phase II permit.
Public Education and Outreach – Distribute educational materials and perform outreach to inform citizens about the impacts polluted stormwater runoff discharges can have on water quality.
Public Participation/Involvement – Provide citizens the opportunity to participate in program development and implementation through public hearings, advisory panels, volunteer opportunities, or other similar activities.
Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination – Develop, implement, and enforce a program to detect and eliminate illicit discharges to the stormwater system.
Construction Site Runoff Control – Develop, implement, and enforce a program to reduce pollutants in stormwater runoff to the stormwater system from construction activities that disturb one or more acres of land.
Post-Construction Runoff Control – Develop, implement, and enforce a program to address post-construction stormwater runoff to the stormwater system from new development and redevelopment projects that disturb one or more acres of land.
Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping – Develop and implement a program with the goal of preventing or reducing pollutant runoff from municipal operations, such as regular street sweeping; proper application of pesticides, fertilizers and deicing salt; or frequent catch-basin cleaning with proper waste disposal.
Because this is a requirement under the federal Clean Water Act, a stormwater program must be implemented. If the cities and county elect not to develop a program locally, Ecology will develop one for us. We feel it is better to have local control and involvement in the program. Additionally, failure to implement a program could result in fines, legal actions, and potential loss of future funding sources.
The benefits from implementing a stormwater management program are numerous. Both the Snake River and Asotin Creek are home to Steelhead and Chinook salmon that have been listed on the Endangered Species List. Both require clean, cool water for spawning and rearing of juvenile fish. Our stormwater system discharges water into both the Snake River and Asotin Creek. Implementing the stormwater management program will reduce the pollutants, sediments, and other non-stormwater additives from entering the river and stream.
Additionally, the stormwater management program will result in cleaner streets and better management of stormwater issues in Asotin, Clarkston and urban Asotin County.
At this time, we are reviewing the costs of implementing the program. Costs being considered include managing the stormwater program and meeting the reporting requirements, increased education and outreach, increased work to clean and maintain the current stormwater system, and capital improvements needed to the stormwater system.
At this time, we are considering a stormwater utility fee, which divides stormwater fees fairly among owners of developed and undeveloped properties. Each property owner only pays for the amount of impervious surface area*, which tends to contribute more runoff to public drainage systems and local waterways. That way, each property owner only pays for the estimated demand that each property would place on the stormwater system. Although the fee is a cost to property owners for the continued operation and maintenance of the public stormwater system in compliance with state and federal laws, it is not a tax on the value of the property.
It should be noted, however, that intensive administrative evaluation and public involvement will be conducted prior to a final decision and implementation of a utility fee.
*Impervious surface means a relatively hard surface area, which either prevents or retards the entry of water into the soil as under natural conditions prior to development, and/or a hard surface area which causes water to run off the surface in greater quantities or at an increased rate of flow different than the natural conditions prior to development. Common impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, rooftops, walkways, patios, driveways, paved parking lots or storage areas, concrete or asphalt paving, gravel roads, packed earthen materials, and oiled surfaces which similarly impede the natural infiltration of stormwater.