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Volume 15, Issue 3
March 2017


Stream protection rules updated

By Mary D. Edwards

Development and redevelopment—the words can mean something as broad as a subdivision or as small as a backyard shed. Anything done to the land affects our rivers and the native wildlife along them through impacts including erosion and warming of the water. Clean Water Services, whose mandate is to ensure clean water for all species, is in the process of revising standards to cut down on runoff from development.

CWS logoThe new watershed-based permit requires CWS to set a water quality treatment threshold for new development and redevelopment that measures 1,000 square feet or more. This means that when 1,000 square feet of impervious area (surfaces through which water cannot flow; a sidewalk or road for example) is either created or replaced a water quality treatment must be done.

In the Portland Metro area, the major impact on streams is from development that creates impervious surfaces. Instead of rain and snow seeping into the soil slowly, water rushes into streams taking sediment and toxins (fertilizer, oil) with it in a turbulent flow. This creates a bad environment for microbes, water-dwelling insects, and fish, whose systems can’t handle the onslaught. Excess runoff also increases flood risks.

“This year we’ve been very much aware of how much runoff there is and where it goes,” she said.

A water quality treatment is a structure, natural or built, that would slow the flow of water into streams —a storm drain and a swale would both qualify. But CWS prefers what it calls LIDA or low impact development approaches, such as the swale, a green roof, street side planters and vegetated corridors along streams.

“For homeowners, 1,000 square feet is a big change. It’s not a kitchen remodel or a new deck,” said Jessica Bucciarelli of CWS, adding the agency is eager to help developers comply with the standard.

Under the proposed new standards, trees in the vegetated corridor (the land surrounding a river, stream, wetland or other sensitive area) are to remain protected. So, if someone was building a house and had a stream nearby, the trees alongside would count towards mitigating for the inevitable runoff from the house’s roof, sidewalk, driveway, and road leading up to it.

“The permit—which comes through the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Quality—governs so much of what we do,” said Bucciarelli. The new standards will be rolled out in two phases: phase one is the 1,000-square-foot threshold and is due to be in place by April. Phase two must be completed by April 2019 and will focus on so-called hydromodification—ways to offset the unwanted effects of development on streams, in other words excess runoff.

The permit is not affected by the recent vote by Congress to nullify the Stream Protection Rule, which limited the dumping of waste into streams from coal mining, she said.

CWS doesn’t just set the rules for others to follow. With its Tree for All program, it works with communities and organizations, including volunteers, to plant trees and restore the Tualatin Valley watershed. Since 2005 more than 120 miles of river and stream habitats have been restored with more than seven million native trees and plants planted along their banks.




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Published monthly by Cedar Mill News LLC
Publisher/Editor:Virginia Bruce
PO Box 91061
Portland, Oregon 97291
© 2017