Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Protecting Our Streams

Today we announced public hearings to consider a big step forward on an important issue: cleaning up our streams.

Through the work of the Stormwater Committee (which I used to be a part of until early this year), we are proposing a "Stream Corridor Protection" system that ensures that we have a system in place that minimizes the amount of pollution that enters streams, and then rivers, by "runoff" from rain and stormwater.

Many people don't realize that one of the biggest sources of polluted streams and rivers is all the soil, dirt, chemicals and other pollutants that get picked up by "runoff" from rain and stormwater--particularly as that water flows over parking lots, construction sites, roads and other paved surfaces directly into our streams, along with all sorts of pollutants it has accumulated. The more the runoff, the more polluted our streams and rivers get. The US EPA has a good explanation of this here.

Figuring out ways to slow that runoff, and protect those streams from all that pollution is not just the right thing to do to protect these invaluable natural resources--this has also become an increasing concern of the EPA, which is requiring jurisdictions like our's to do something about it.

So we are. On the Stormwater Committee, we worked hard to create a balance that respected the rights of property owners, but also created a clear set of rules to protect our streams and stream corridors from runoff and pollution. After much debate, we garnered a unanimous vote (mine included) of the Stormwater Committee, and this issue is now before the County Commission for several public hearings before we vote later in April.

For more information on this whole issue, the Stormwater District has a nice brochure here.


Quim said...

A good book on this topic is The Mill Creek: An Unnatural History of an Urban Stream by Stanley Hedeen.

Anonymous said...

One of the serious issues threatening the water quality and our environment is that we are increasingly allowing streams/creeks to be put into pipe systems instead of retaining their integrity in their natural state.
Projects like that in Hyde Park, Green Twp, and Colerain Twp have been violating Ohio law because nobody here in Hamilton County is enforcing current law that mandates an EPA process before enclosing waterways. Developers have been ignoring the law and relying on the incompetence of those issuing permits to bypass state law regarding these requirements.

The confusion - the loop hole - came about when the US Supreme Court ruled that the Army Corp of Engineers had a more restricted jurisdiction over waterways than had been applied for decades. Prior to this ruling, Ohio relied primarily on the Corp to do waterway assessments and to require stream mitigation from developers and less-disruptive to nature development.
While the Corp abided by the ruling, in a frenzy, they continue to issue permits - not based on the issues but based on jurisdiction. Developers used these waivers (of jurisdiction) to acquire land moving permits when, in fact, the waivers provided no such authority.

Under Ohio law, the EPA was required to be consulted when the Corp didn't have jurisdiction - but nobody in the county offices enforced or have begun to enforce this provision. Without enforcement - development ran amok.

Under Ohio law - all developers who side stepped this issue and proceeded with development without consulting the EPA is liable still for mitigating damages to county citizens - but, again, no body is enforcing it and the county isn't bringing any suit or actions to replenish the environment caused by this false loop hole. Nor to close the loop hole.

Water quality is promoted when streams are retained in their natural state, not undergrounded in pipes, because the wildlife, greens, oxygen, aquatic life all work to "clean" the runoff waters as only nature can do.

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