Friday, December 11, 2009

Post Construction Stormwater BMP Trading / Offsets

Lets Fix the Chesapeake Bay, Help the Building Industry and the Economy!

There are times in life when you need to look long and hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  This seems to be one of those times.  With DEP  enacting numerous new regulations, EPA developing a bay wide TMDL, DEP & Conservation District budgets and staff cuts and the building industry still trying to recover, we see opportunities that would otherwise not be presented. We have proposed solutions to the Pa. Conservation District, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and DEP, that help solve environmental and development problems to help in fixing the Chesapeake Bay.  First, let’s look at the main source and location of pollution to the bay.

These figures show that the highest levels of nutrients, shown in red are generally located in south central Pennsylvania.  Looking at Google earth aerial photos we see numerous farms with little or no buffer to streams in these same areas.

What does this have to do with the building industry?  Well as part of DEP’s & EPA’s efforts to clean up the Bay we have numerous new regulations which require Post Construction Stormwater Best Management Practices (PCSW BMP’s) in site designs that will be difficult to comply with and will require a substantial amount of money to design, install and maintain.  A much more effective pollution control measure would be for the building industry to help fund the off site stream buffers in return for offsets of certain PCSW BMP site requirements.  Of course we would still need to install all erosion and sedimentation control measures and stormwater facilities to control the runoff rate to pre-development conditions.  We would propose to offset stormwater infiltration areas, that will be a long term problem for everyone to guarantee maintenance and function, with off site forested buffers.
In the front of this article we show one of our recent site designs with the infiltration areas colored in orange.  These areas are  typically designed to hold one foot of water which will infiltrate into the ground after a storm event.  We see these areas as a problem for home owners and source of complaints to builders.  After the development is completed a property owner is likely to fill in these areas with topsoil to eliminate the ponding after each storm.  This will be a difficult issue to police.
Instead of designing and installing the infiltration areas we would propose that the builder or designer work with the Conservation Districts to identify riparian forested buffers or similar  projects that need funding. This would be similar to the wetlands banking concept we have used in the past. EPA & DEP has identified the farms as a major contributor to nutrient pollution, however, they have not  come up with a way to enforce or fund the problem.  We see a mutual benefit to the builders, farmers, DEP, EPA and Conservation Districts to cooperate and help provide a source for funding of these projects.  This would maximize the environmental benefits for a reasonable cost and minimize the long term maintenance and enforcement issues.
Farmers would need to grant a conservation easement along the stream in return for technical assistance to bringing the farm into compliance and installation of the riparian buffer.  It may be possible to generate and sell nutrient credits with this program which could benefit the farmer and/or the Conservation District with long term funding.
Please consider this proposal and e-mail your comments if you feel this is the right way to go.  We are actively promoting this concept to DEP, EPA and the Conservation Districts.  Your input would be helpful to make sure we get this right. Any cost and maintenance issues you have had with stormwater BMP’s would also be  helpful to note.

For more information on Land Development Issues & Solutions see our website at