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Public input sought for regional stormwater management program

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Yakima County Surface Water Supervisor Brian Cochrane explains the regional stormwater management program to approximately 20 individuals yesterday.

YAKIMA - Yakima County officials yesterday (Thursday) hosted a regional stormwater management program in hopes of receiving input from the public.

The meeting is a part of the permit requirements for the stormwater program that the county and the cities of Sunnyside, Yakima and Union Gap have partnered in.

The four municipalities, said Brian Cochrane, entered into an interlocal agreement about four years ago to meet the requirements of a permit required by the Washington State Department of Ecology.

Cochrane is a surface water supervisor for the county. He said the four entities in the regional stormwater program first submitted a permit in 2007. "It's a general permit...the first permit dealt with the establishment of the program," he said.

The program is still in the establishment phase. There are six requirements, including measurements, goals, activities, construction site stormwater runoff control, post construction runoff control and evaluation of the program.

Public input, said Cochrane, is important because those municipalities included in the program need to know if the education and outreach is effective. This year about 20 individuals attended the meeting, and he said turnout has been considerably lower at the past four.

One suggestion was made to him regarding public outreach and education. A property owner advised him that although the stormwater program can be found online, not all citizens use computers. He suggested the program might include information that is available to individuals in some other format, such as a hard-copy document.

Cochrane said the suggestion was something he appreciated because there may have been oversight on such a matter.

He did note the program is available online to keep costs down. By keeping costs down, the ratepayers are not assessed as much.

Assessments are different for each municipality, said Cochrane. He told those at the meeting Yakima County has evaluated aerial maps and assigned each property units according to the amount of non-permeable surface area of the property. A residential property, he said, most likely would be assigned one unit and a commercial property might be assigned two units because it is two times the size of a residential property.

He said he doesn't know how the three cities assess rates for property owners, but Sunnyside has a "blue ribbon committee" looking at its method of assessment.

Non-permeable surface area is the best measurement for stormwater, Cochrane said, because stormwater runoff clearly does not filter through soil before reaching major water systems like the Yakima River.

"The struggle is measuring the effectiveness of a campaign," said Cochrane.

He said the four municipal governments are looking at ways they can reach their "target audience," those most affected because of the amount of concrete and asphalt surrounding their properties.

Terry Wittmeier of the Department of Ecology spoke up and said he has heard of an effective campaign in another city that hung door hangers as a public education tool.

He told Cochrane the results were easy to measure because the municipality was able to see a decline in pollutants disposed of in city drains. Community members were provided the information needed to report illegal dumping, as well.

Cochrane appreciated the input and continued to urge those gathered to learn about the stormwater program. He said property owners with issues regarding their assessments can contact the authorities there for an evaluation of their properties, as well.

He also provided an explanation of all the four municipal governments have included in the regional stormwater management program, which can be found online at www.yakimacounty.us/stormwater.

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