Busy Week in DC on Water and Stormwater Issues


Stormwater and water issues had a high profile this week in Washington.The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee each held hearings that focused on water issues.  The Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife Chaired by Senator Benjamin Cardin (MD) held a hearing entitled "Our Nation’s Water Infrastructure: Challenges and Opportunities." The hearing featured the testimony of Ted Scott, the Executive Vice President and Founder of Stormwater Maintenance in Maryland.  As many design and engineering firms shrink due to the larger economic crisis, Scott estimates that his business has quadrupled in size in the last few years, largely from filling the demand created by recent Maryland stormwater management regulations.  Scott employs landscape architects, engineers and other design professionals and is an example of a creative firm creating business opportunities in response to a new regulatory framework. 

The House Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water and the Environment chaired by Rep. Bob Gibbs (OH) held a hearing entitled, “Integrated Planning and Permitting: An Opportunity for EPA to Provide Communities with Flexibility to Make Smart Investments in Water Quality” This panel featured the testimony of local and national water experts discussing their relationship with their regulator (US Environmental Protection Agency or EPA).  Local water officials looked to congress to help their efforts in seeking flexibility in how they comply with Clean Water Act requirements, usually through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting and in some cases via court ordered consent decrees.  Panelist recognized the efforts of EPA in allowing more flexibility but given the enormous costs of compliance many localities are seeking additional relief and the ability to utilize integrated planning approaches that allow localities to prioritize and optimize their investments.  This includes utilizing alternative techniques to meet their water quality goals. The unanimous opinion of the panel was that increased utilization of green infrastructure technologies would be a large part of the solution to the nation’s stormwater and water quality issues, and localities wanted additional flexibility to implement green approaches. Many communities, including Philadelphia, New York, Seattle, Milwaukee and others are finding that green infrastructure is a less cost prohibitive way to comply with Clean Water Act standards. Rep. Donna Edwards (MD) cited the need for best practices and standards for cities to utilize when adapting green approaches and citied the need for additional data supporting its effectiveness. Her bill, the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act, would create up to 5 regional centers of excellence to help collect and disseminate best practices and technical advice to further the use of green infrastructure approaches.

The panel also featured testimony from Nancy Stoner, the Acting Assistant Administrator at the EPA Office of Water who highlighted a recent guidance memorandum that encourages a flexible integrated approach to complying with the Clean Water Act as well as promotes the use of green infrastructure.  When asked about the status of a national stormwater rule Ms. Stoner stated that the EPA efforts are delayed. 

ASLA continues to monitor water issues in the administration and in congress and while promoting the expertise of landscape architects in crafting low impact development solutions to address our nation’s stormwater and water quality challenges. 

For more on ASLA’s Water and Stormwater priorities


Kevin Fry
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JR Taylor
PR Coordinator