A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany going to court over DEQ permit

Written January 24th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Periwinkle Creek might be in violation of the state’s new stormwater regulation because it carries storm runoff to the Willamette River.

The state Department of Environmental Quality’s latest move to control the discharge of stormwater will cause the city of Albany and property owners all kinds of problems, so the city is going to court.

The city council on Wednesday voted unanimously to seek “judicial review” of a stormwater discharge permit promulgated by the DEQ last fall. The city plans to file its complaint with the Linn County Circuit Court before the filing deadline at the end of this month.

The permit, a first for Albany because it passed 50,000 population in the last census, takes effect in March and ostensibly aims to prevent rainwater runoff to cause violations of water quality standards in the receiving rivers and streams. In practice, it practically bans the discharge of untreated runoff.

The council has had briefings about this over the last couple of years as the permit was being prepared, and as city officials tried to tell the DEQ that Albany could not comply without incurring enormous costs. Among other things, the permit requires retention ponds for rainwater on sites with more than a certain amount impervious surface. City officials say this is not feasible, so the permit, if it stands, will make it impossible to develop large amounts of land in town.

Unless the DEQ permit is blocked or modified, Albany will be in violation of it the moment it takes effect in March.

The city contends that the regulation goes beyond what the federal Clean Water Act requires. And because the state provides no money to carry it out, Albany argues that it amounts to an unfunded mandate, which the state constitution prohibits.

Corvallis and other towns affected by the blanket permit have already approved court action against it. Millersburg did too. It’s affected because it’s in a section of Linn County covered by the permit.

On Wednesday night, the council called an executive session closed to the public to get a briefing from Mark Yeager, the city’s lead official on this issue. Then it reopened its public session and authorized the court action without further explanation. Thus anyone watching the council on TV did not get Yeager’s summary of the permit’s effects, and the reasons for the staff recommendation to go to court.

The city staff had prepared a “media release” about the recommended action. But the staff did not release the release after the council action because it had not yet been cleared by the city’s Portland lawyers. (hh)

7 responses to “Albany going to court over DEQ permit”

  1. S. Whittle says:

    If the issue is so complex that Albany-area attorneys are unable to comprehend the nature of the business, then perhaps Albany needs a better class of barristers. How much is the City paying Portland Scheisters to do its dirty work?

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    The city should cease and desist. The State and Federal governments know best how to clean the city’s polluted stormwater, so hush up and follow their lead.

    I like Bernie’s “Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure”, which includes funding for water systems It starts with the premise that clean water is a basic human right, as declared by the UN.

    And growing income inequality means many can’t afford to drink clean water. With crumbling or non-existent infrastructure, and human caused global warming, the cost of providing clean water is soaring.

    Like Medicare-For-All, we need government provided Water-For-All. One idea is for government to issue water stamps (like food stamps).

    There are progressive solutions to this problem if we just open our hearts, follow our dear leaders, and make rich folks and greedy corporations pay for it.

    Like Bernie said, “It is a no-brainer.”

    • Gerald R Berndt says:

      Right on Gordon!!

      • H. R. Richner says:

        The “no-brainer” lies elsewhere. North Albany should secede from Albany as it is now big enough to be independent. Thus, by getting Albany’s population below 50,000. we can tell the State to go fly a kite.

  3. Liz VanLeeuwen says:

    Hasso, I am the one who finally got unfunded Mandates passed. It was 1995 Legislature and 1996 vote of the people. Glad to know some local government is making use of it. Best wishes, Liz VanLeeuwen.

  4. Ronald says:

    Part of the problem is fertilizer and weed kill on yards.None of these products can be good for our waterways.

  5. John Robinson says:

    I have no sympathy for the City. When they initiated the “stormwater tax” I complained that it was illegal to collect a fee when no service was being provided. Yes I have property that does not drain any rainwater into the City owned system. I was told everyone has to pay regardless. That in itself sounds like a tax not a “service fee”. Anyway- when I asked the City they said they needed all this money for the permit and maintenance of the storm pipes. Remember that this permit process has taken at least a year and half, but they wanted to start collecting the money right away. I specifically asked the city employee in charge about how the stormwater could be released untreated into the Willamette. I saw in the report where they were talking about temperature and turbidity of the water. Employee said they are not testing the water– my response was then what are we paying for? This whole thing has been a scam to collect more tax revenue. The City knew what was going to be required by DEQ. And correct me if I am wrong but what set this all in motion was Albany’s population. And please remind me how much money Albany took from the fed’s for the population milestone? Because I said then – don’t take the money if it requires you to spend even more money on compliance. This has been a mess from the beginning but Albany has nobody to blame but itself.


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