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This Week in Washington

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August 4, 2011                                                    Vol. 1, No. 5

The Stormwater Report is a monthly e-newsletter that highlights advanced practices, cutting-edge research, policy updates, and current events pertaining to stormwater.  Look for The Stormwater Report on the first Thursday of every month.

StormFeature

Stormwater Commission "Caches" in on Stormwater BMPs

The Lake County Stormwater Management Commission (SMC; Libertyville, Ill.) is making stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) understandable and visible to the public through its Caching in on Stormwater BMPS Geocache project.

“Our goal is to show people what BMPs are, how they work, and the importance of including them in site designs,” said Kurt Woolford, SMC chief engineer.

Geocaching is a high-tech, treasure-hunting game played throughout the world by adventure-seekers equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches.

The SMC project will educate geocachers about different stormwater BMPs at sites around Lake County. BMPs displayed at four sites include rain gardens, bioswales, permeable pavement, cisterns, floodways and floodplains, green roofs, and detention ponds.

Lake County geocachers can find GPS coordinates online, then enter them into a handheld GPS or smartphone to locate the first BMP site. Inside the cache, seekers will find information and a question about the BMP at their current location as well as coordinates for the next cache. Answers to the questions can be found near the sites.

After the geocachers complete the trek, they visit SMC, where they will be asked to provide the answers to all the questions. If they answer them correctly, they receive an SMC 20th Anniversary GeoCoin. SMC is tracking the geocachers, who include senior citizens, families, and cub scouts.

“The feedback we’ve received so far is what we were looking for — the public has seen a bioswale or some other BMP but had no idea what it was or its function. Geocachers now connect BMPs with improved water quality and reduced flooding,” said Woolford.

View a short video on SMC’s geocache project, or check out the “Caching in on Stormwater BMPs” website.

SMC also takes the BMP message on the road by sponsoring watershed tours to showcase local, on-the-ground BMP projects, including stream and lakeshore restorations and other stormwater practices that can be applied to homes and businesses. Representatives from homeowner associations, local government agencies, and grassroots watershed groups are on hand to describe how their stormwater practices help to improve water quality, reduce flooding, restore natural drainage systems, and enhance land stewardship in urban settings. Funding for projects through grants and other sources also is discussed.

“It all starts locally, and SMC is promoting cost-effective, sustainable BMP projects using inexpensive outreach tools and opportunities,” Woolford said. For more information, see SMC’s website or contact Lake County Communications Manager Susan Vancil at svancil@lakecountyil.gov.

Image for SWR No.5

Hidden containers, called geocaches, lead participants to locations with various stormwater best management practices (photo courtesy of LCTV)

 

StormNews

WEF To Host 2012 Stormwater Event
The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) is pleased to announce its inaugural Stormwater Symposium.  This 2-day event will be held in Baltimore in July 2012 in cooperation with the Chesapeake Water Environment Association. A call for abstracts and workshops will be issued in September 2011 and will include issues of national scope (including proposed national stormwater rulemaking) and those specific to the mid-Atlantic.  WEF is currently seeking volunteers interested in reviewing abstracts and joining the conference planning committee.  Those interested should contact Jenn Chavira at jchavira@wef.org.

StormEVENTS

WEF Events

WEFTEC® 2011
Oct. 15–19
Los Angeles Convention Center
Check here for stormwater-specific programming

Member Association Events

Texas Water Environment Association
CMOM Capacity, Management, Operation & Maintenance — Proactive Approach
Austin, Texas
Aug. 11–12

Chesapeake Water Environment Association
2011 Tri-Association Conference
Ocean City, Md.
Aug. 30–Sept. 2
Stormwater sessions on Aug. 3, 1:30–5 p.m.

New York Water Environment Association
2011 Watershed Science and Technical Conference
Hotel Thayer
West Point, N.Y.
Sept. 15–16

Pacific Northwest Clean Water Association
Annual Conference & Exhibition
Vancouver, Wash.
Sept. 18–21
Stormwater sessions on Sept. 19, 10:30 a.m–5:15 p.m.

Virginia Water Environment Association
WaterJAM 2011
Virginia Beach, Va.
Sept. 26–29
Wet Weather/Stormwater on Sept. 27, 1:30–5 p.m.

 Other Events

Stormwater Industry Association of New South Wales
2011 Stormwater New South Wales Conference
Cypress Lakes Resort, Hunter Valley, NSW
Sept. 6–9

Southern Regional Water Program
WQ Nutrient Standards: coming to a watershed near you?
Georgia Center
Athens, Ga.
Sept. 15

Water Environment Research Foundation
Greening Our Cities Webinar
Sept. 21
2–3:15 p.m.

 


 

U.S. EPA Holds SSO Workshop
At the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) July workshop on sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) provided insights on potential SSO regulation, along with other participating environmental groups and water associations. Most participants supported the need for EPA to develop a comprehensive SSO rule.

Workshop topics included reporting, recordkeeping, and notification; capacity, management, operation, and maintenance programs; permitting of satellite collection systems; SSOs beyond control of the public agency; peak wet weather flow treatment; and parallel treatment of flows at wastewater treatment plants.

There was general agreement that a goal for any SSO rule would be the certainty that systems could be brought into compliance. EPA Office of Wastewater Management Director Jim Hanlon said, “The reality is … that there’s no such thing as zero,” indicating that events outside of a utility’s control can lead to overflows. Hanlon also said that EPA would consider options for peak wet weather flow treatment, such as a tiered system or a separate track that takes into account advanced technology for treating infiltration and inflow.

See the July 22 issue of This Week in Washington for more information. Also check out WEF’s position statement on managing wet weather flows. EPA plans to release a summary of the discussion, possibly including next steps, at a later date.

 
WEF Prepares for Proposed Stormwater Rule and Potential Impacts by Congressional Riders
The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) met with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Stormwater Team in July to discuss the status of the proposed stormwater rule. WEF understands that the proposed rule is expected to include proposed performance standards for post-construction discharges from new and redevelopment projects, revisions to municipal separate storm sewer system boundaries and extensions of the permitting program to currently unregulated dischargers, retrofit programs for targeted urban areas, a transportation-specific permit program, and inclusion of  combined sewers systems in stormwater regulations. Click here to see a memo providing more information on the current understanding of the rule as well as related activities in which WEF plans to engage.

EPA is finalizing the rule before sending to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) this month for review. OMB is expected to complete its review in September, and EPA plans to release the proposed rule on schedule by the end of September. However, riders in the fiscal year 2012 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 2584) could delay the process. Riders include a provision that would require the EPA to submit cost-benefit analyses to the Appropriations and Authorizing committees before the stormwater rule can be proposed. There is a mandatory stay on rulemaking during the 90-day review period required by Congress, which would result in a significant delay in the release of the proposed rule if H.R. 2584 is passed as currently drafted.

WEF is forming a workgroup to draft and review the extensive comments expected on this major rule. WEF members interested in joining this workgroup should contact Seth Brown at sbrown@wef.org.


U.S. House Passes Bill Limiting EPA Water Quality Authority
On July 13, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011 (H.R. 2018). The bill would limit the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate state water quality programs.

If this bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the president, EPA would no longer overrule state-granted water quality certifications, Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, or object to state-approved National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, Section 402. EPA also regulates the disposal of dredge or fill materials into U.S. waters (Section 404). While the EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could comment on proposed dredge-and-fill permits, H.R. 2018 would deny EPA the ability to block permits as it has in the past.

The bill now moves to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for consideration. However, the Office of Management and Budget stated that the Obama administration strongly opposes H.R. 2018, and that senior advisors would recommend that the president veto the bill. See the July 15 issue of This Week in Washington for more information.


WEF Comments on Draft Guidance on Waters of the U.S.
On July 31, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) submitted comments on the Draft Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act. This guidance was jointly released May 2 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clarify which U.S. waterbodies are subject to Clean Water Act regulations.  Recent Supreme Court rulings created confusion on this topic, especially in determining the meaning of a “significant nexus” associated with Justice Kennedy’s opinion.  WEF supports EPA’s intent to provide clarity while understanding that the agency has committed to a formal Rulemaking on this matter.  WEF comments focused on man-made structures such as ditches, swales, reservoirs and ponds to ensure that the existing exemptions on these elements would be protected in the guidance.


WEF Comments on Proposed Construction General Permit
Last month, public comment ended on the new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) construction general permit (CGP). The permit relates to stormwater discharges from construction sites and is designed to minimize soil erosion and the delivery of sediment to receiving waters. The most significant changes to the permit include a numeric effluent limit for turbidity that applies to large construction sites and a standard 2-year design storm for all measures. While this regulation only impacts those states and entities directly regulated by EPA, these changes signal likely future changes in state programs. WEF submitted comments on the permit with input from its Stormwater Coordinating Council and Government Affairs Stormwater Workgroup.

The new permit will be finalized prior to expiration — recently extended until Feb. 15, 2012 — of the 2008 CGP. The change affects all EPA Regions except Region 4. See the July 8 Federal Register for more details.


WEFTEC Stormwater Management Tour Time Change
WEFTEC® attendees are invited to visit two examples of green infrastructure in the City of Los Angeles on Oct. 19. The tour time was adjusted to 8:15 a.m.–12:15 p.m. to accommodate a midday return to the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The tour includes South Los Angeles Wetland Park, formerly a transportation maintenance facility with 36,425 m2 of impervious surfaces. The area now captures urban runoff and reduces bacteria, oil and grease, sediments, and metals. Attendees also will visit Elmer Avenue, a green street project that captures 161,880 m2 of residential rainwater runoff and infiltrates it for groundwater recharge. Check here for more details on this event, and click here to register for the conference. Look for a more comprehensive review of WEFTEC stormwater programming in the September Stormwater Report.


Illinois EPA Offers Green Infrastructure Grants
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is offering approximately $5 million in funding for green infrastructure grants that benefit municipal separate storm sewer systems or combined sewer overflow areas. The categories for the grant are combined sewer overflow rehabilitation, stormwater retention and infiltration, and small green infrastructure projects. Check here for more information.


U.S. Congress Reforms National Flood Insurance Program
On July 12 the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1309, the Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2011, which will remove incentives supporting building in floodprone and environmentally sensitive areas. The act also would apply market-based rates to flood insurance and support natural flood protection, such as wetlands and floodplains. This legislation has been sent to the Senate.


Check It Out!
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released Keeping Raw Sewage and Contaminated Stormwater Out of the Public’s Water, an EPA Region 2 report that discusses wet weather issues in New York and New Jersey and answers commonly asked questions about combined sewer overflows.

EPA also has updated its nutrient website and is providing a new Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution Data Access Tool. The tool provides data on the extent and magnitude of nutrient pollution, related water quality problems, and potential nutrient sources.


Did we miss something? Feel free to suggest content by e-mailing Kristina Twigg at
ktwigg@wef.org or WEF’s stormwater team lead, Seth Brown at sbrown@wef.org.