Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Launches Regional Stormwater Management Project – Senator John Yudichak

Announcement: Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Launches Regional Stormwater Management Project

“On the banks of the Susquehanna River, the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority (“WVSA”) recently launched an innovative regional stormwater management project that could be a springboard for other cooperative efforts between the region’s municipalities. Senator John T. Yudichak, Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) Secretary Patrick McDonnell, and representatives from more than 30 municipalities from Luzerne County announced the joint venture on the River Commons in Wilkes-Barre.

Under the plan, the WVSA will coordinate and implement a regional and comprehensive stormwater management program that will reduce pollution of the Susquehanna River and help Pennsylvania meet its obligations under the Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Under existing federal law, municipalities in Northeastern Pennsylvania must curb pollution of the Susquehanna River by as much as 10% in the next five years or each community could be penalized for failure to comply with federal law. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) regulations are intended to keep harmful contaminants out of the river and minimize each community’s environmental impact upon the river and downstream communities. As the EPA targeted reductions are met, the Susquehanna River will become cleaner thereby making it safer for wildlife as well as for fisherman, kayakers, and other sportsmen to enjoy.

The WVSA will assume the lead–on behalf of member municipalities–to finance capital projects, submit all stormwater management plans and permit applications, and implement pollution control measures throughout its service area that will reduce stormwater pollution to meet the EPA’s benchmarks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, will be assisting with stormwater mapping as part of the program.

“The WVSA is well-prepared to meet this challenge and we are eager to advance this project after months of planning,” said Jim Tomaine, Executive Director of the WVSA. “Over the next five years, we will reduce pollutants contaminating the Susquehanna River, which will improve water-quality.” By working together, the WVSA estimates that the region will save $57 million over five years and $274 million over the next two decades, in present-value dollars. Individual households will pay a nominal fee—anywhere between $3 and $4.50 monthly—to the WVSA to finance the regional effort. The WVSA estimates that households will pay between 70% and 90% less than if their municipality pursued EPA compliance on its own. “We all have a responsibility to clean up the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay because no single municipality could meet this obligation alone,” said Senator Yudichak. “The regional stormwater project—designed to improve water quality and wildlife habitats throughout the watershed—represents the most comprehensive environmental project in northeast Pennsylvania in the last forty years.”

Learn More about Senator Yudichak (14th Senate District)
More about this Project

Evaluating Erosion, Sediment, and Sedimentation on Roadway Projects November 12

Evaluating Erosion, Sediment, and Sedimentation on Roadway Projects
Presenters: Jerald Fifield, Ph.D., CISEC, CPESC
& Tina Wills, P.E., CISEC, CPESC
Wednesday, November 12th

Get the skinny on USLE, RUSLE, & RUSLE2!

Don’t miss joining Jerry Fifield and Tina Wills to explore the differences between erosion, sediment, and sedimentation on your roadway project sites, they key elements and behaviors of these variables, and how you can calculate and determine the erosion and sediment yield on your roadway project sites.

Or register for the full series & save 20%!

In this webinar we’ll discuss the variables that allow for the quantification of erosion and sediment yield on a roadway project site. Additionally, Fifield and Wills will provide comparisons to demonstrate the difference between erosion rates determined by the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) and the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE and RUSLE2), as well as present mechanics of sediment yield using the Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation (MUSLE). Lastly, Fifield and Wills complete a sediment yield to runoff volume comparison providing participants with an understanding how the volume of sediment in runoff waters vary and impact commonly found BMPs on roadway project construction sites.

Learning Objectives

Understanding of the differences between erosion, sediment, and sedimentation

Identification of the limitations of erosion rate and sediment yield models

Introductory understanding of the concept of a “sedigraph”

Understanding of sediment vs. runoff volumes

Speaker:
Jerald Fifield, Ph.D., CISEC, CPESC
& Tina Wills, P.E., CISEC, CPESC

Hydrodynamics Inc.

Dr. Jerald Fifield and Tina Wills have over 45 years of professional experience in drainage, sediment and erosion control, water rights, and nonpoint pollution control. Through HydroDynamics Inc., they develop SWPPPs and sediment and erosion control plans, complete drainage analysis, provide inspection services, teach about controlling sediment and erosion on construction sites, and provide expert testimony. Fifield and Wills have taught hundreds of courses in the sediment and erosion control fields, training thousands of professionals in the process, and are featured speakers at the upcoming StormCon 2014. Additionally, Dr. Fifield is the author of the best-selling manual Designing and Reviewing Effective Sediment and Erosion Control Plans (3rd ed.).

More Training in Stormwater Management and Highway Design

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Testimony House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy January 29, 2014 House Bill 1565 Stream Buffers

House Committee on Environmental Resources and Energy Hearing January 29, 2014 – Testimony by Mr. Brian Oram Geologist, Soil Scientist, Educator, and Citizen of Pennsylvania

 

My name is Brian Oram and I wanted to thank you for this opportunity. I am a licensed professional geologist, soil scientist, and owner of B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc.  I am lifelong resident of Northeastern Pennsylvania and currently reside in Dallas, Luzerne County. I am here today as a citizen and licensed professional in Pennsylvania in support of House Bill 1565.

The proposed house bill makes a slight change to the Clean Streams Law which would eliminate the requirement to use or install an arbitrary 100 foot riparian buffer on all streams and 150 foot a riparian buffer zone for EV and HQ streams.  The proposed wording change for HB 1565 is as follows:

“(c)  The use or installation of riparian buffers and riparian forest buffers shall not be required under this section.  Riparian buffers and riparian forest buffers may be used as a choice among best management practices, design standards and alternatives to minimize the potential for accelerated erosion and sedimentation and to protect, maintain, reclaim and restore water quality and for existing and designated uses.”

The reasons that I support this proposed change:

1. This proposed change in the law will not result in the destruction of riparian zones or significant encroachment or disrupt of these zones because existing environmental permitting processes are already in place to protect these areas.  The change in the law will permit the development of a site that permits the design professionals to evaluate all alternatives and select the approach that limits disturbance and manages the potential impacts.

Riparian zones can be divided into three broad zones:

a. Active Zone is the area within the banks of the stream and the channel bottom;
b. Zone 1 is typically associated with the floodway and floodplains; and
c. Zone 2 is typically associated with wetland areas, organic soils, and other transition zones.

Under the current laws in PA, the floodway, floodplains, and delineated wetland areas are protected from direct development and encroachment.  With respect to floodways and wetland areas, there are existing permit processes in place to address issues related to encroachment into these zones. 

2. The proposed legislative change allows for use of riparian buffers as a site-specific BMP as a function of the stream classification.  This approach is consistent with the criteria for HQ and EV streams as already outline in Chapter 93. (Currently, the Chapter 102 regulation is a standard not based on science or a site-specific analysis, but a universally applied arbitrary mandate).

The proposed legislation permits the establishment of riparian buffers zones or maintaining specific riparian buffers that are based on a site-based criteria/analysis.  This analysis includes the nature of the proposed development, proposed management system, current conditions, stream classification, and the water quality criteria/biological criteria provide in the law.  The proposed change will ensure that riparian buffers are sized and utilized in a manner that is consistent with the provisions of the Clean Streams Law.

3. The proposed change will prevent negative impacts to current or future stream quality.

In most cases, the concept around forest riparian zones is based on the principle that the zone is actively used to manage uncontrolled flow or to control nutrients and sediment.  When projects use engineering controls,  such as: bioretention devices, rain gardens, wet detention ponds, water reuse, land-based irrigation systems, groundwater recharge, and peak flow retention, treatment is provided by a combination of engineering controls and non-engineering controls that occur and are managed outside of the stream side “riparian zone” and/or wetland areas.

4. Many of the recommendations related to the size of a riparian buffer assume the buffer is the main active control system for post- construction stormwater management and includes provisions that will protect wildlife habitat.

For engineered projects, riparian buffers should not and are not the main system that is used to control sediment, water flow, volume reduction, or even nutrient control.  These riparian buffer’s primary role is to further polish that water after it already meets design criteria.  However, DEP’s current guidance suggests transporting managed water through the buffer in a pipe or swale directly to the receiving waterbody, which is inconsistent with the true role of the riparian buffer zone.

Criteria for riparian buffers- Buffers and set-backs for a stormwater management system should be based solely on maintaining in stream quality, downgradient use provisions, and biological criteria that are part of Chapter 93. Riparian buffers should not be established in stormwater management regulations to protect the general wildlife habitat for the watershed.  Chapter 93 provides wildlife protection to High Quality Waters if the water is a Class A Wild Trout Stream or where the Rapid Bioassessment Protocols for Use in Streams and Rivers: Benthic Macroinvertebrates and Fish resulted in a score of 83 % compared to a reference site. (Chapter 93)

RIPARIAN BUFFERS: WHAT ARE THEY and HOW DO THEY WORK? (http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/publications/BMPs/table.html

“Most decisions about buffer widths will be a compromise between ideal widths based on environmental goals (wildlife corridors, bank stabilization, and water quality protection) and sociologic or economic constraints. Science-based criteria, for which research data may be available to support an informed decision, include the functional value of the water resource; watershed, site, and buffer characteristics; adjacent land use; and buffer function. The functional value of the water resource is important for determining buffer width in that a highly valued resource may merit a wider buffer for increased protection.”

5. A project can use a riparian buffer zone as an additional management tool, but the minimum buffer should be based on site-specific analysis.  This analysis should be site and project specific and be done by licensed professionals and not an arbitrary non-scientific approach.

In the long-run, an arbitrary buffer zone will result in inadequate protection in areas with larger streams were a project proposes using little or no engineering control systems.  The minimum size of a riparian buffer zone should be site-specific and a function of the proposed project and proposed engineering and non-engineering controls.  The regulations, with this proposed change, will be more effective if they are less restrictive and permit the licensed professional in the state of Pennsylvania to make decisions based on the site-specific conditions, proposed nature of the development, and long-term management for the site.

 RIPARIAN BUFFERS: WHAT ARE THEY and HOW DO THEY WORK? (http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/publications/BMPs/table.html

“The current proposed buffer standards in North Carolina use a two-tiered riparian buffer: forested areas near the streams and grassed areas away from the stream. The proposed buffer width is 50 feet: 30 feet of forest and 20 feet of grass (NCDEHNR, 1997). Some streams, however, may need greater and some streams need less buffer width, depending not only on site location but also on the pollutant that is being controlled. For optimal performance, riparian forest buffer systems must be designed and maintained to maximize sheet flow and infiltration and impede concentrated flow”.

6. In Pennsylvania, we have enough examples of well-meaning guidance documents not specifically based on science and designed and package primarily in response to lawsuits. These guidance documents have caused the development of policy in PA that are ineffective, make the goals effectively unachievable, potentially creates future problems, and creates significant other unintended consequences.

Recent examples would be the legislation that developed after the PA Guidance Document on Stormwater Management and the recent attempts to regulate nitrates from individual on-lot septic systems.

We do recommend some proposed wording changes to the proposed House Bill:

With respect to the proposed House Bill, we would suggest a slight wording change to clarify the scope and intent.
We recommend the phrase “and/or” should be included in the proposed language to account for the difference in the level and type of protection afforded to EV streams and HQ streams.  The level of protection afforded by the current law is not the same for EV and HQ streams.

and

We would recommend that the size of the buffer be based on a site-specific evaluation that takes into consideration the existing conditions, proposed use,  proposed engineering/non-engineering controls, and the proposed long-term management that are proposed by the project.

In conclusion, it is my personal and professional opinion that the change in the regulations would put the sizing and the development of stormwater management systems in the hands of professionals that have been licensed by the State of Pennsylvania and other professionals that provide facts and science-based information to make site-specific and project specific recommendations to meet the goals and objectives of Chapter 102 and to meet the water quality standards in Chapter 93.   We should not have a one-size-fits-all approach to stormwater management in Pennsylvania.
Prepared by:
Mr. Brian Oram, PG
B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.
15 Hillcrest Drive
Dallas, PA 18612
http://www.bfenvironmental.com

http://www.water-research.net
bfenviro@ptd.net

Summary

Proposed Change DOES NOT
1. Eliminate or permit the disturbance of riparian buffers.
2. Does not waive any provisions of the law and makes using a Management Riparian Zone an Option with the size of the riparian zone based on science- therefore, it may be larger or smaller than 150 feet.
3. Provides for flexibility without reducing protection.
4. Does not create new waivers that could be challenge in the courts.