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Puget Soundkeeper Alliance v. Snohomish County

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

February 5, 2018




         This matter comes before the Court on the parties' joint motion to enter Consent Decree (Dkt. No. 18). Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to the citizen suit provisions of the federal Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. § 1365 (“CWA'), alleging violations of Defendant's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase I Municipal Stormwater Permit. (Dkt. No. 1.)

         The parties have subsequently agreed that settlement of this matter is in the public interest and that entry of the proposed Consent Decree is the most appropriate means of resolution. Pursuant to statute, the parties have served the Complaint and the proposed Consent Decree on the U.S. Attorney General, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), and the Regional Administrator of Region 10 of the EPA. (Dkt. No. 18 at 1-2.) The U.S. Attorney General has filed a letter of non-objection to entry of the Consent Decree. (Dkt. No. 19.) In addition, the statutorily required 45 days have passed since notice was received by the above parties. The Court is not aware of any objections to entry of the Consent Decree.

         The Court has reviewed the proposed Consent Decree and its supporting appendices, and finds that the Consent Decree is fair, reasonable, and adequate, and is consistent with the CWA. Accordingly, the Court ENTERS the following Consent Decree.


         This matter came before the Court upon the Parties' Joint Motion for entry of Consent Decree and the above stipulations. Having considered the stipulations and the promises set forth below, the Court hereby ORDERS, ADJUDGES, and DECREES as follows[1]:

         A. This Court has jurisdiction over the parties and subject matter of this action.

         B. Each signatory for the parties certifies for that party that he or she is authorized to enter into the agreements set forth below.

         C. This Consent Decree applies to and binds the parties and their successors and assigns.

         D. The CWA prohibits the discharge of pollutants from a point source into waters of the United States except in compliance with a permit. The Washington Department of Ecology administers NPDES permits in Washington State pursuant to the CWA. Ecology issues municipal stormwater permits that authorize the discharge of stormwater to surface waters and groundwaters of the state. As the owner and operator of a large MS4 that discharges stormwater to surface waters and ground waters of the state, Snohomish County must comply with the conditions of the Phase I Municipal Stormwater Permit (“Permit”) under which its MS4 discharges are authorized (NPDES permit number WAR044502, effective August 1, 2013, as modified January 16, 2015, and August 19, 2016). Plaintiff Puget Soundkeeper Alliance (“Soundkeeper”) alleges that Snohomish County failed to comply with numerous conditions of the Permit and, therefore, violated the CWA.

         E. This Consent Decree is a full and complete settlement of the claims and allegations in the Complaint and all other claims known and unknown existing as of the date of entry of this Consent Decree that could be asserted under the CWA, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387, concerning the County's compliance or non-compliance with the Permit, including any activities or conduct performed for the purpose of complying with the Permit. This release includes a release, and covenant not to sue, for any claims or injunctive relief which could have been asserted with respect to any activity or lack of activity in alleged violation of the Permit arising prior to the entry of this Consent Decree. These claims are released and dismissed with prejudice. Enforcement of this Consent Decree is Soundkeeper's exclusive remedy for any violation of its terms.

         F. This Consent Decree is a settlement of disputed facts and law. It is not an admission or adjudication regarding any allegations by Soundkeeper in this case or any fact or conclusion of law related to those allegations.

         G. Prior to executing this Consent Decree, the County performed the following actions as part of its efforts to resolve this litigation:

         1. The County substantially revised and supplemented the content of its annual Stormwater Management Program Plan (“SWMP Plan”). The County published its 2017 Stormwater Management Program Plan in March 2017. The 2017 SWMP Plan contained much greater detail regarding actions the County would take to implement the Permit in 2017. Although the County does not admit prior versions of its SWMP Plan did not comply with the Permit, it revised its SWMP Plan format with the belief that a more detailed SWMP Plan will better inform the public regarding the County's implementation of the Permit and will allow for greater public input regarding the County's annual priorities under the Permit.

         2. The County adopted Amended Ordinance No. 17-070 on November 1, 2017 (effective December 1, 2017), which ordinance is attached to this Consent Decree as Appendix A (Dkt. No. 18-1 at 13.) The purpose of the Snohomish County Code amendments adopted by Amended Ordinance No. 17-070 was to address Soundkeeper's allegations in Paragraph 48 of its Complaint that the County did not “review, revise, and make effective local development related codes, rules, standards, or other enforceable documents to incorporate and required [low impact development] principles and [low impact development best management practices] by January 22, 2016, ” as required under Permit Special Condition S5.C.5.b. Although the County does not admit it violated Permit Special Condition S5.C.5.b, the amendments adopted by Amended Ordinance No. 17-070, together with revisions made by rule to the Snohomish County Drainage Manual and the Snohomish County Engineering Design and Development Standards, require and promote the use of low impact development best management practices and provide incentives for or remove barriers to the use of low impact development best management practices.

         H. In lieu of a payment of penalty, the County will perform as follows in exchange for the consideration provided by Soundkeeper in releasing its claims as ...

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