NEWSLETTER # 114 AUGUST, 2005
Universal Stormwater Management Program.
Attention all members of local government!
The Division of Water Quality (DWQ) of the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources is proposing a plan that just might make your stormwater problems a little simpler to manage. Everyone agrees that stormwater is a major problem for many of our communities while, at present, there are twelve different categories of stormwater requirements for different areas of the state—a confusing situation for local governments. DWQ is working on an optional stormwater management program that will be easier to manage and more protective of the environment. DWQ is proposing a single plan to replace most of these existing, overlapping programs with a single simple set of requirements. The USMP would be simpler to implement and administer and would be more protective of water quality than existing programs.
There are two major components to the plan: a design standard for stormwater control and a setback requirement. There are slightly different standards for coastal and for non-coastal counties.
The design standard for coastal counties: all residential development disturbing one acre or more and all commercial development disturbing ½ acre or more will require the control and treatment of the stormwater runoff generated by a 1.5” rain event. The control and treatment measures must be capable of removing 85% of the Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and must have a volume drawdown of at least 24 hours but not more than 120 hours.
The setback requirement for coastal counties requires a 30 foot vegetated setback for impervious surfaces from all surface waters of the state.
A unique feature of the plan is that it is designed to be optional. Localities with current stormwater plans would have the option of adopting the USMP or retaining their present plans.
Sound too good to be true? We urge everyone, especially local officials, to log on to: http://h2o.enr.state.nc.us/su/usmp.htm for a comprehensive look at the proposed program. After reading it, please respond to the feedback request with your comments. The Environmental Management Commission has approved the concept of a USMP and now needs to determine if there is interest at the local level for the plan before proceeding to rule making. Under the current schedule, DWQ rules will be drafted with the intention of initiating the rulemaking process in the fall of 2005. If all goes well a model ordinance could be available by the summer of 2006.
It is extremely important that the DWQ hear from citizens and local government officials. We need to do a better job of controlling runoff and this might be a very useful tool
An editorial comment by Irv Hooper: this sounds like a big improvement over the present situation. I am concerned however, that the plan would only apply to residential development of 1 acre or more. The cumulative effect of uncontrolled runoff from a number of small residential lots will still impact our coastal waters. It has been suggested that the plan apply to any plot requiring a CAMA permit, in addition to the 1 acre requirement. This would mean that runoff would have to be controlled in all lots on our estuaries. It would also be an improvement to require control of 2” of rainfall rather than 1.5”. It would still be a simple rule and should help to protect our shellfishing waters from their present downward spiral.
Sadly, we have to report that the Land Use Planning (LUP) process for the county shows no sign of arriving at a reasonable outcome. Citizens had hoped that the county would utilize the LUP process as a way to improve our declining water quality, plan for the growth of the county in an orderly fashion, recognize the unique qualities of our coastal area and take a careful look at where we are and where we want to be in the next 10 to 20 years.
The LUP should be considered a tool to help us get to a more sustainable economy by providing the needed infrastructure and protecting the environment—the basic essentials for a growing economy.
Instead, the County Commissioners are apparently looking at the LUP as just another set of regulations to harass development rather than as a guide to future growth and development. They seem to be interested in allowing anyone to do anything that they want to do with their property—regardless of the damage to the environment or to their neighbors.
In some ways, the saddest thing is that the Planning Commission, charged with preparing the plan, worked really hard at improving the old LUP. Then their work was ignored by the Commissioners who apparently have a different agenda.
What comes next? The Board of Commissioners has adopted its version of the plan and sent it to the Division of Coastal Management (DCM) who will study it, circulate it to other agencies for comments and return it to theCountyCommissionerswith suggestions for improvement. The Commissioners will then respond to the comments from DCM and others and hold a Public Adoption Hearing, tentatively scheduled for September 2005. After this, the final plan will go to the Coastal Resources Commission for certification.
Unfortunately, this leaves little chance for citizens to influence the final plan. We do expect that citizens will attend the Public Adoption Hearing and let the Commissioners know that we wanted a better plan. Keep alert and we will let you know the date of this meeting.
How is theU.S.doing?
It is often of interest to compare our efforts in a given field with those of other countries. A new report, the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index from Yale andColumbiaUniversities, compares the environmental stewardship of 146 countries. The Index represents the likelihood that a country will be able to preserve environmental resources over several decades.
Finland,Norway and Uruguay lead the world, in that order. TheUnited States places 45th in the rankings. This high-middle ranking, just behindArmenia (44) and ahead of theUnited Kingdom (46), reflects top-tier performance on issues such as water quality and environmental protection capacity. Bottom-rung results on other issues, such as waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions, bring down the overallU.S.standing.
If you would like more details, the report can be viewed at www.yale.edu/esi
Our thanks go to new Life Member Steve Malay, new Patron member Tom Messier, and Don and Carolyn Hoss for a contribution beyond membership.
We still have a vacancy on the Board of Directors. If anyone is interested, please let us know and we will be happy to consider you. It is an interesting job with a good group of folks who are really concerned about keeping our county a great place to live and work.A reminder: Please look at your mailing label. The first line tells you the status of your Crossroads membership. If your dues have not been paid for 2004 or 2005, we would greatly appreciate your renewed support. If you feel that we are incorrect and you have paid your dues, let your Treasurer know at: email@example.com or by calling 728-5117
With this newsletter, the legend “Dues for 2005 are Due” will appear for those who have not paid current dues. We have sent reminders to members who have not paid 2004 dues and will drop them from the mailing list unless we hear from them.
Dues and donations are our only support. We have no paid personnel—all our work is done by volunteers.Return to Crossroads Home Page