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12/18/2013

County, neighborhood, environmental groups settle lawsuit

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Chris Cook, Prosecuting Attorney's Office
Phone: (360) 397-2478 ext. 4775
Chris.cook@clark.wa.gov

Vancouver, WA – Clark County and three groups that sued over the county’s stormwater practices reached a mediated settlement Wednesday that requires Clark County to invest $3 million in local water quality projects.

The county reached the settlement with the Rosemere Neighborhood Association, Columbia Riverkeeper and the Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The groups had sued the county in 2011, saying it violated the federal Clean Water Act by failing to comply with its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit.

“I applaud the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Environmental Services for achieving such a good outcome,” said County Administrator Mark McCauley. “The money will be reinvested in Clark County, which will be good for the county and our citizens.”

The county, with approval of the state Department of Ecology, chose an alternate method to meet the permit requirements, McCauley said. Even with Ecology as a partner, the courts decided the county was in violation.

In June, a U.S. District Court judge determined the county was liable for violating the act, and set the stage for proceedings to determine damages and attorney fees. However, the groups and county agreed to mediation to find a solution that benefits both taxpayers and the environment.

Under federal law, the county must pay the groups’ attorney fees, which amount to $600,000. The county will pay those within 60 days.

The $3 million will go to the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board to be used, at its discretion, on environmental restoration projects. The annual $500,000 payments will begin in June 2015.

“We appreciate the plaintiffs working with the county to keep the settlement at home, and put the matter behind us,” said Steve Stuart, chair of the Board of Clark County Commissioners. “We hope to move forward together to preserve and enhance our water quality.”

Environmental Services Director Don Benton said, “This lifts a huge burden and marks a new and positive relationship. We are grateful that the parties were reasonable and willing to work for a position solution.”

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