Details on the framework were limited, as comments from the meeting will be used to shape the document. WEF stressed that the framework should support a broad, holistic watershed approach to meeting Clean Water Act goals in a prioritized way that advances cost-effectiveness, affordability, sustainability, and innovation. WEF favored reliance on a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit approach to implementation rather than new enforcement actions. WEF also asked EPA to consider including drinking water infrastructure needs in the framework. EPA anticipates that the agency will issue a final framework by the end of March. EPA also will make a small amount of money available for municipalities, and expects to issue a call for applications shortly.
EPA Releases Construction General Permit
On Feb. 16, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the 2012 construction general permit (CGP), which replaces the 2008 version. According to EPA, “the 2012 CGP updates include steps intended to limit erosion, minimize pollution sources, provide natural buffers or their equivalent around surface waters, and further restrict discharges to areas impaired by previous pollution discharge.” The permit also contains new flexibilities for operators, especially where requirements are not economically feasible. In addition, it allows emergency projects to begin immediately without EPA authorization. However, EPA still must approve the project after it has commenced. Read more
WEF Stormwater Committee Finalizes Strategic Plan
The Water Environment Federation’s (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Stormwater Committee finalized its strategic plan, which lays out the vision and mission of the committee along with goals and strategies for meeting the vision. More specifically, the document lists out mission areas that tie in with WEF’s new strategic direction as well as activities the Stormwater Committee envisions for the next three years. Read more about the committee and apply for membership
EPA Launches Green Infrastructure Website
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the launch of its new green infrastructure website. The site includes basic information, tools, case studies by region, and research and resources by topic. It will serve as a central access point for information from EPA offices and regions as well as governmental agencies, academia, nonprofits, and the private sector. The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) is a partner organization for EPA’s green infrastructure efforts. On the site, you can find WEF stormwater programs as well as those of other partners.
NRDC Releases Report on Financing Stormwater Retrofits
The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC; New York) recently released the report Financing Stormwater Retrofits in Philadelphia and Beyond. The document uses Philadelphia as a case study for a stormwater billing system that promotes green infrastructure. Philadelphia uses a fee structure based on parcel size and impervious surface area, which provides incentives to reduce nonporous surfaces. The city also gives significant credits to nonresidential property owners who retain the first inch of rainfall. The report delves into attracting private investments by using schemes similar to those for energy efficiency retrofits. Following this example, a portion of future stormwater fee savings would be used to repay the lender or project financier for retrofit costs. The report also covers other innovative financing models for green infrastructure capital costs. For more on green infrastructure from NRDC, also check out its recent report, Capturing Rainwater from Rooftops.
New Jersey To Fix Failing Stormwater Basins in Barnegat Bay Watershed
On Feb. 13, the New Jersey Senate unanimously approved Adopt a Barnegat Bay Stormwater Basin Act (S. 1084), which was introduced by state senators Paul Sarlo and Bob Smith. Next to the Chesapeake Bay, Barnegat Bay is considered the second most polluted watershed in the United States, with more than 2000 failing stormwater basins. The bill seeks to encourage local nonprofits and businesses to adopt part of the Barnegat Bay watershed and to be responsible for the maintenance, construction, improvement, operation, or funding of stormwater basins in that area. Benefits for adopters include recognition and significant tax credits. The bill now heads to the state assembly for further consideration.
This bill complements the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) action plan, released at the end of 2011. One of the items on the DEP’s list is to fix 150 to 200 stormwater basins per year in the Barnegat Bay watershed.
Washington State Proposes Tighter Provisions for Industrial Stormwater
The Washington Department of Ecology is seeking public comment on its modified Industrial Stormwater General Permit, which regulates approximately 1200 facilities in Washington. The state is proposing to tighten permit provisions because of a ruling from the Pollution Control Hearings Board. The new permit would require more stringent sampling rules and tighten the timeline for implementing structural or operational controls after exceedances. The permit does eliminate a requirement that discharges to bacteria-impaired waterbodies meet numeric effluent limits, since industrial facilities often are not a significant source of bacteria. Public comments on the draft permit are due by March 16. Read more
Green Streets-Green Jobs-Green Towns Grants Available in Chesapeake Bay Region
On Feb. 8, the Chesapeake Bay Trust (Annapolis), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the state of Maryland released the Green Streets-Green Jobs-Green Towns grant program. The program goal “is to accelerate greening efforts that improve watershed protection, community livability, and economic vitality.” Grant funding has doubled from 2011 levels to $400,000, with $35,000 of assistance available for infrastructure project planning and design and as much as $100,000 for implementation and construction. The grant is open to local governments and nonprofit organizations in urban and suburban watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay region. The application deadline is March 9. Read more
Nonprofit Group To Create a Street View of American Rivers
The nonprofit group Below the Surface is using Google Maps technology to produce a “street view" of American rivers, including pollution levels in the water and surrounding areas. The organization’s goal is to document 27 rivers in the first 5 years. The group also is working on a mobile application that will allow users to help gather river footage. Click here to check out the Riverview Project’s demo website and partners.
World Water Monitoring Day™ Relaunches With New Name and Interactive Website
On Feb. 14, the Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) and International Water Association (London) relaunched the newly dubbed World Water Monitoring Challenge™ along with an updated and interactive website. The name of the event, formerly known as World Water Monitoring Day™, was changed to encourage year-round involvement, with monitoring ongoing from March 22 until the end of the year. The program encourages groups around the world to test the quality of their waterways, share their findings, and protect our most precious resource. In 2011, the international program recorded nearly 340,000 participants worldwide. The program’s primary sponsors include the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Xylem Inc. (White Plains, N.Y.), and Smithfield Foods (Smithfield, Va.).
Proposed Legislation To Aid in Funding and Integration of Stormwater and Wastewater
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D–Ohio) introduced The Clean Water Affordability Act of 2012 (S. 2094) on Feb. 9 to update the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) clean water affordability policy. The bill would require EPA to integrate stormwater and wastewater control programs into a single, long-term plan. The Clean Water Affordability Act would authorize $1.8 billion over 5 years as a grant program to help financially distressed communities update aging infrastructure. The program would also implement a 75–25 cost share for municipalities that are planning, designing, and constructing treatment works to control combined and sanitary sewer overflows. Read more legislation details.
Supreme Court Could Review Forest Road Stormwater Case
Logging and other forest roads currently are regulated as nonpoint sources of pollution, with best management practices used to control stormwater. However, based on a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, these roads could require stormwater permits unless the case goes before the Supreme Court, as requested by Oregon and forest industry interests. A Congressional appropriations bill currently bars requirements for stormwater permits on forest roads during fiscal year 2012, but what will happen at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, might be decided by the Supreme Court.
Check It Out!
The Sightline Institute — a nonprofit research and communication center — created a video entitled Five Tips for Talking About Stormwater. In 3 minutes, the video covers how water professionals can communicate plainly with the public about stormwater and is part of the organization’s stormwater blog.