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EPA-mandated code changes support water quality & environment in Benton County
Tuesday, February 21, 2023
On March 1, 2023, Benton County will update the Phase II requirements of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES) issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality modifying existing Benton County code.
These changes support one of Benton County’s core values to preserve natural resources according to the County’s vision for the future called the 2040 Thriving Community Initiatives.
“The intent is to improve water quality overall so there is a lot less sediment in our water system because that is a real problem from an environmental perspective,” Benton County Commissioner Xan Augerot said. “Given our vision for the future, we know our community members really place a high premium on where we live in this beautiful part of the Willamette Valley. This change helps us tread more lightly on the environment as we grow our population in Benton County.”
The mandate stems from the Clean Water Act established by the EPA in 1972. The first modification is to Construction Site Runoff Control which will lower the threshold of ground disturbance which will require Benton County Erosion and Sediment Control permitting.
Benton County Associate Engineer Gordon Kurtz said changes to site disturbance standards will prevent erosion during development, but that County staff are also keenly aware that requiring stormwater management measures may impact the overall cost of development in Benton County.
“I think the important thing to remember is that the program itself is designed to preserve our environment as it currently is, and to do so everyone must make a little bit of sacrifice. Our job is to help make that process as painless as possible,” Kurtz added.
The second modification addresses Post Construction Stormwater Management which will require projects that create more than ¼ acre (10,890 sq. ft.) of impervious surface to create a long-term stormwater treatment and detention plan.
Community Development Program Coordinator Shannon Bush said she also believes the changes will impact water quality and the environment in Benton County long term.
“Many Benton County residents are engaged proactive community members who want to be stewards of our natural environment, but it can be challenging to find ways to make a real difference. While these regulatory changes do present added cost and burden in the permitting process, they also create an effective way for community members, as individuals, to effect change right in their own backyard,” Bush said.
Like Kurtz and the Benton County Public Works team, Bush explained that her team in Community Development is also working to ensure the transition to the new regulations happens as smoothly as possible by working diligently to identify alternative, low-cost mechanisms for applicants to meet the new requirements without the need for an engineered system design.
While that work is happening, Bush said the best thing applicants can do to keep costs as low as possible, is to contact Benton County Public Works before beginning site planning or development work, particularly "site disturbance" activities such as grading and clearing.
“Over the past several months, the Stormwater Implementation Group (SWIG) and certain County departments have been meeting regularly to create outreach materials and devise administrative strategies to make this permitting process as straightforward as possible for community members, working within the bounds of administrative and fiscal constraints. We always welcome feedback from applicants who would like to share their experience and ideas for improvement,” said Bush.
Benton County experts and leaders are hoping that public outreach, in conjunction with the changes, will educate more community members to understand that individuals have the power to improve regional water quality. By implementing certain measures on their property to protect the water quality, residents help improve the quality of water the community depends on for daily life.
Learn more about Benton County code changes for stormwater permitting.
Benton County is an Equal Opportunity-Affirmative Action employer and does not discriminate on the basis of disability in admission or access to our programs, services, activities, hiring and employment practices. This document is available in alternative formats and languages upon request. Please contact Cory Grogan at 541-745-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.