EPA's Proposed Stormwater Permit to Protect Puget Sound

Due to its size, population and proximity to Puget Sound, Joint Base Lewis-McChord has received a proposed Municipal Stormwater discharge permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The permit, when final, is expected to help guide how stormwater is managed across nearly 142 square miles of base property over the next decade and beyond.

Located just south of Tacoma, JBLM is recognized as the largest military installation on the West Coast. The most recent population estimate for the base was 95,000 people, including military personnel, military dependants residing on base, civilian employees, and visitors.

"JBLM plays a vital role in our national security and the regional economy," said Mike Bussell, director of EPA’s office of Water and Watersheds in Seattle. "So we designed this new permit to help them accomplish their mission of providing a safe, healthy community for those who serve our country, while reducing the storm water pollution threat to base streams, lakes and Puget Sound."

Stormwater (surface runoff from rain and snow melt) is recognized as a major source of pollution to the Puget Sound. Commercial and housing development alters the land’s natural ability to absorb and evaporate rainfall. Expanding impervious surfaces (like roads and roofs) then converge with a growing population to produce more vehicle related pollution that settles on those surfaces. When it rains, it all runs off into lakes, rivers, streams and ultimately the Puget Sound.

EPA’s draft municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit for JBLM is the first such proposed permit for a military or other federal facility in western Washington. The draft permit requires specific actions and activities that must be accomplished over at least the next five years to protect local waters.

JBLM has been implementing a stormwater program for several years in anticipation of receiving a permit from EPA. Among the new requirements under the proposed permit, the base must control runoff from all construction sites; control runoff from all new development and redevelopment sites; map, inspect, and maintain the storm system, and engage JBLM employees and the community about preventing pollutants in storm water runoff.

Due to its proximity to Puget Sound, the Base permit also requires:

  • stormwater runoff from redevelopment and new projects must meet performance standards through use of Low Impact Development (LID) techniques and, if needed, traditional stormwater features (detention ponds);
  • a new construction project threshold of 5,000 square feet or greater;
  • a program to reduce runoff from the existing developed areas;
  • a biological stream health monitoring program using aquatic insects in Clover and Murray Creeks.
  • EPA’s proposed permit requires LID practices such as rain gardens, permeable pavement, native vegetation areas, and green roofs to avoid or lessen the reliance on traditional stormwater pipes and ponds. By using LID, a larger portion of rainfall will be intercepted, infiltrated, evaporated, or reused to avoid excess runoff. These actions will help maintain or restore a more natural stream flow throughout the year, replenish groundwater, and help protect fish and other aquatic organisms. It will also reduce the influx of pollutants washed into the streams, creeks and lakes on the base or into Puget Sound.

EPA will hold a public meeting to discuss the permit on:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lakewood Library

6300 Wildaire Road Southwest

Lakewood, Washington 98499

6:00 pm open house & 6:30 – 8:00 pm public meeting

Comments on the draft permit will be accepted through March 30, 2012

Send or email comments by March 30, 2012 to:

EPA Region 10

Office of Water and Watersheds, OWW-130

Attn: NPDES Stormwater – JBLM

1200 Sixth Avenue, Suite 900

Seattle, WA 98101

or via email to the following address: vakoc.misha@epa.gov

After the comment period ends EPA will consider and respond to all comments, and make any necessary changes to the draft permit. The Washington Department of Ecology will also consider certifying the permit in accordance with Section 401 of the Clean Water Act. The EPA Director of the Office of Water & Watersheds will then make a final decision about permit issuance.

Click here to access a copy of the draft permit.