There are reasons the Natural Resource Advisory Board took the action it did
I read with some concern, Eric Stroble's letter to the editor (in the March 20 Lake Oswego Review) 'Disconnect downspouts in the city.' I am one of the Natural Resource Advisory Board ('NRAB') members that Mr. Stroble and his classmates presented to at the February NRAB meeting.
I am also one of the board members who asked Mr. Stroble tough questions about his downspout disconnect program in order to understand how Lake Oswego's citizens would finance the idea.
Other board members asked difficult questions about how the program would mesh with the city's Water Conservation Program, Community Forestry Plan and Clean Streams Program currently under consideration by a Technical Sounding Board created by the city council. At the conclusion of the meeting and based on insufficient information, NRAB was unwilling to suggest that the city council adopt the program as presented. Unfortunately, these difficult questions and NRAB's decision to take no action at this time, appear to have left Mr. Stroble with the impression that NRAB considers the program to be 'not worth the labor and economic investment.'
At the outset, Mr. Stroble and his classmates should be recognized and commended for even having an interest in Lake Oswego's surface water runoff issues and water conservation. Taking the next step and actually presenting an idea to resolve the problem to a citizen's board should be an example for all of us 'adults' who rarely find time to even understand the issues. Clearly, Mr. Stroble and his classmates are on the right track.
In August of 2007, NRAB publically commented on Lake Oswego's Draft Water Conservation Plan in a memorandum to Mayor (Judie) Hammerstad and the city council. As part of that memorandum, NRAB explained that it considered the 'conservation of water to be one of the most important natural resource goals' the city council would address in 2007. As part of that memorandum, NRAB encouraged the council to adopt policies that would incorporate rainwater harvesting and the re-use of grey water into the city's Water Conservation Program.
In order to make sound policy however, any program, including Mr. Stroble's downspout disconnect program, must consider the implications each program will have on Lake Oswego's natural resources and its citizens. Unfortunately for Lake Oswego, a downspout disconnect program, however funded, could impede the city's current process of treating each lot owner's surface water runoff on a case-by-case basis. Some lot owners are connected to storm water and some are not. As a result, city engineers and staff monitor run-off from each lot. Interrupting the process by encouraging citizens to disconnect their downspouts could lead to uncontrolled runoff. Failure to check the runoff could result in more serious soil erosion, untreated surface pollutants reaching neighborhood streams, Lake Oswego, and/or the Willamette River. As importantly, unchecked surface water runoff could create flooding of adjacent lot-owners creating neighbor disputes. In other words, more thought needs to go into this idea.
NRAB clearly believes that passive and active water conservation through landscaping, rainwater harvesting and new city codes that allow for the reuse of grey water must be encouraged and ultimately incorporated into how this city perceives itself as part of a sustainable society.
Further, Mr. Stroble and his classmates should be applauded for recognizing that surface water runoff is a very serious issue that this city must address and ultimately engage policies that reduce the runoff. But the downspout disconnect program, as presented, must be further vetted in order to evolve into sound public policy that benefits this city's natural resources and its citizens.
Bill Gaar, Lake Oswego, is a member of the city's Natural Resource Advisory Board.