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Scorecard Spurs WA Cities to Control Stormwater Pollution

Nearly three-quarters of western Washington municipalities are making progress toward controlling polluting stormwater runoff. (Seattle.gov)
Nearly three-quarters of western Washington municipalities are making progress toward controlling polluting stormwater runoff. (Seattle.gov)
July 15, 2019

SEATTLE – After years of work, cities in Washington are doing more to protect Puget Sound from its biggest source of pollution: stormwater runoff.

A report from the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Washington Environmental Council helped motivate them.

In 2017, the groups released their progress rating, called "Nature's Scorecard," for 83 Puget Sound municipalities to measure how they were meeting 2012 codes to reduce toxic stormwater.

It found fewer than half were making meaningful progress.

"After we published that scorecard, we got some more municipalities reaching back out to us and a little more willing to work with us after actually seeing their scores,” says Alyssa Barton, policy manager for the alliance. “And so we continued to reach out and work with them."

In the 2019 scorecard released this month, nearly three-quarters of municipalities are making meaningful progress.

The analysis gauges how towns and cities are doing based on five state Department of Ecology measures for stormwater permitting, such as improving filtration and planting native trees to filter pollutants.

Barton notes that reducing Puget Sound pollution is beneficial for people as well as wildlife, including salmon health and orca recovery.

Lynden is one of the municipalities that made big strides after the 2017 scorecard. The small town in northwest Washington went from not meeting any of the standards to meeting all five.

Lynden city planning director Heidi Gudde says folks working for small towns have to wear a lot of hats, and they received help from a stormwater permitting consultant to do this work.

"As a small town, it's really difficult to track all of those different markers, as far as stormwater's concerned and site design and landscape and natural environment, but we're really stepping up our game in all areas," she says.

The Nature's Scorecard release also coincides with updated stormwater permit requirements from the state Department of Ecology.

Abbey Stockwell, municipal stormwater permit planner for the agency, says one of the biggest updates is to source control of pollution.

"It's really about preventing pollution from entering these stormwater systems, which are draining directly to creeks and the Puget Sound and the rivers,” she states. “There's no treatment involved before it hits these receiving waters."

While most have improved, about 16% of municipalities haven't made any progress since 2012.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA