Bioswales disguised as landscaping, like the one pictured here in front of Back to Health on River Road North, will likely become more common under new stormwater regulations. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Bioswales disguised as landscaping, like the one pictured here in front of Back to Health on River Road North, will likely become more common under new stormwater regulations. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Talking about stormwater management isn’t going to make you friends at dinner, but it can have a substantial impact on the route you might take to get to the party.

A few years ago, residents were navigating some sections of River Road North with almost six inches of standing water during heavy deluges. The problem has been mitigated for the most part, but solving it didn’t come easily.

To complete a video inspection of the drainage system in 2014 and 2015, crews removed 3,800 cubic feet of sediment and other discarded material. It’s the equivalent of 38 standard-sized dump trucks.

That’s why changes to the way Keizer manages stormwater merited their own work session by the Keizer City Council, Monday, Sept. 26. Changes are coming to Keizer’s stormwater permit and it will impact both the development code and, likely, the city’s cost of doing business.

Elizabeth Sagmiller, Keizer’s environmental and technical division manager, highlighted some of the changes expected when the city is issued a new stormwater permit later this year.

“There will be additional costs, but we’re not in any way prepared to come to you with a number,” said Sagmiller.

Keizer’s stormwater permit allows the city to discharge untreated stormwater into waterways. The existing permit allows Keizer to craft its stormwater policies to meet the needs of the community, but the new one will be a move toward standardizing stormwater management across the country. The changes are being made at the behest of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many of the changes are aimed toward making stormwater management more transparent, Sagmiller said.

“We will have to keep more detailed records and there will be increases in the frequency of compliance checks,” Sagmiller said.

Currently, compliance checks are made every five years, but the new permit will require staged checks every six months to a year. Environmental groups play an active role in watchdogging stormwater disposal and making sure agents are complying with the law.

The new permit is also going to require additional community education.

“Currently, we only have to develop a public outreach program. The new permit will require reaching out to 16 target audiences, like landscape architects, twice a year,” Sagmiller said.

Other changes will be directed at the development codes in the city. A heavy emphasis will be placed on green structures and infrastructure to mitigate stormwater.

“Once we know precisely what the permit requires, it will force us to sit down and evaluate what we do and how we do it alongside all of the other jobs we perform that aren’t part of the stormwater system,” said Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works director. “Part of that will be planning for some capital improvement projects, but the good news is that even some of our oldest systems aren’t in horrible shape.”

The new permit will probably also trigger the creation of a new stormwater management plan. The city’s current plan dates back to the 1980s.

“Ultimately, there are a few challenging things, but it will be a good thing for the community,” Sagmiller said.