Officials Seek Stream Ordinance Input
Photo by Andy Shupe
“Everything that happens in a watershed impacts water quality,” said John Pennington, agriculture and water quality agent for the Washington County Extension Office. “We don’t have control over our watersheds, but we can make good streamside practices.”
According to Karen Minkel, the city’s planning and internal consulting director, Fayetteville’s nutrient reduction plan recommends development and implementation of a streamside protection ordinance. The plan was completed in April as part of an agreement with the Beaver Water District and Fayetteville. The ordinance is part of a series of recommendations aimed at reducing pollution in local waterways, which will improve the health of streams and reduce the costs of treating drinking water.
“The city is doing this because ‘do nothing’ is no longer an option,” Minkel said. “We’ve done some preliminary research, but right now we’re in the early stage of crafting the ordinance.”
In addition to the agreement with the Beaver Water District, the Environmental Protection Agency requires Fayetteville to reduce its phosphorous levels from 1 part per million to 0.1 part per million. The city’s phosphorous level is at 0.4 parts per million.
“In Fayetteville, the most common source of phosphorous in urban and suburban areas is pet waste,” Minkel said. “Nearly, 14,000 pounds of phosphorous could be put in our water annually from pet waste. We can reduce that load by paying attention to what happens up stream so don’t have to spend millions of tax dollars on water treatment.”
According to Pennington, a riparian buffer is a strip of vegetation established next to waterways in managed landscapes designed to capture storm water runoff, nutrients and sediment. The buffers improve habitat for aquatic organisms by lessening the impact of land management practices on waterways.
“A watershed is a common point where all the water in an area drains,” he said. “When water runs across the surface, it drags things with it into streams.”
Pennington said activities and structures near watersheds can have both a positive and a negative impact on water quality.
“Sediment is the number one contaminant of surface water in the U.S.,” he said. “Healthy riparian areas filter many pollutants from runoff water before the pollutants can be connected directly to a stream. Unhealthy riparian areas lead to property loss and accelerated erosion. This can happen due to watershed changes anyway, but does anyone want to bring this upon themselves?”
In addition to educating people about the benefit of healthy watersheds, Minkel said Saturday’s workshop aimed at gaining public input to help shape the streamside ordinance.
Afterward, participants took a short field trip to College Branch, a local stream located at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Razorback Avenue. The site visit, led by Ward 4 Councilwoman Sarah Lewis, aimed at showing participants stream banks and how buffers are measured.
“You’re input will help us decided how many and how big the buffers will be, as well as how they’ll will be measured,” she said. “The size will vary for different streams. People who can’t make it to the public input sessions will have about a month to post additional input online. We don’t anticipate bringing it before an elected or appointed body before July.”
Participants were asked to fill out a form, identifying which streams should be protected and which activities they think should be allowed or prohibited in protected areas. Their input, along with information provided during the workshop will eventually be posted on the city’s Web site, wwww.accessfayetteville.org.