One easy way to help protect Iowa soil and clean water

In August 2012, Governor Terry Branstad issued an executive order creating a mechanism for “stakeholder groups” to block potentially “burdensome” administrative rules proposed by state agencies. Those groups include representatives of businesses that would be affected by any new regulation. One of those stakeholder groups is meeting next week to discuss the fate of a rule the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has advanced in order to reduce soil runoff and storm water discharge associated with construction activities.

You can view the rule here (pdf). The main point is to require developers and home builders to leave four inches of topsoil on the ground after construction, so that yards will be able to absorb more of the expected rainfall. Some business interests oppose the rule because it will add costs to construction. But they are not considering the hidden costs of runoff (increased water pollution and a loss of irreplaceable topsoil). State government needs to act in the public interest and not only consider the bottom line of a few companies.

An action alert I’ve posted after the jump provides more background and details. Lucy Hershberger, an Iowa City-based landscaper who serves on the stakeholder group, wrote it and gave me permission to publish here. The Iowa DNR is accepting public comments on this issue via e-mail: Adam.Schnieders AT dnr.iowa.gov. It would be better to submit those comments before the public hearing scheduled for May 29. People can also attend that hearing, either in person or by telephone (instructions for calling in are below).  

Action alert circulated by Lucy Hershberger of Forever Green (emphasis in original):

Help reduce runoff into our rivers, lakes & streams

I am asking for your input on a regulation designed to protect our rivers, lakes & streams.

In order to help to preserve our rivers, lakes and streams and comply with EPS rules the Iowa DNR has implemented a regulation that among other things requires that unless infeasible 4″ of topsoil remains on the site after construction.  The goal of this rule is to have yards that will be able to absorb rainfalls of up to 1.25″ which account for up to 90% of the average rainfall in Iowa.  Some developers and builders have expressed a concern that implementing this rule will add excessive cost to the price of a new home placing a burden on the home buyer by increasing the development cost.

Because of these concerns expressed by developers and contractors Governor Branstad formed a stakeholders group to review whether the rule should be kept, amended or repealed.  The stakeholders committee is made up of a group representing contractors, developers, landscapers a representative from the EPA, Homebuilder Assn. and ISWEP.  This group is requesting input from the public.  If you believe this issue it is important please let the stakeholders group and Gov. Branstad know how you feel.  Please direct your email comments to adam.schnieders@dnr.iowa.gov there will also be a public hearing at the Wallace Building in Des Moines at 10:00 on May 29th to gather more input from the public.  DNR press release for the public hearing is attached.

There is a cost to these practices to protect our water resources, just as there are costs to other construction rules such as electrical and plumbing codes which will be passed on to the homebuyer.  The estimate for spreading 4″ of topsoil onto an average size lot is $1500-$5000 about 1-2% of the average cost of a new home.  I believe that the cost of the damage to our resources outweighs the expense of complying with this regulation.  If it is left to individual communities to comply it may be an incentive for communities who do not see themselves impacted by water quality to ease enforcement to encourage construction at a cost to homeowners and all of us who use and enjoy our waterways.

Your input will have an effect on the decision making process.  The stakeholders group is asking for input about how this rule will affect you and our state.  I would like to know if homeowners feel that the value of having the soil replaced on the lot is worth the additional cost.  Both as an added value to the home in better growing conditions and reduced water and fertilizer needs, and as a method to protect our rivers, lakes and streams.  Do you feel that it is the responsibility of builders and developers to use practices that reduce the impact of development on the environment?  Have you been affected by stormwater management issues such as; water quality in rivers, lakes and streams, standing water in your yard, flooding, erosion, or other issues?

Please take a moment to let the EO 80 stakeholders group know how you feel email Adam Schnieders at Adam.Schnieders@dnr.iowa.gov or attend the public hearing in person or by conference call 10:00 May 29th .

If you want more information on NPDES General Permit No. 2 here is link to the rule.

http://www.iowadnr.gov/Portals…

TOPSOIL PRESERVATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CONSTRUCTION TO BE ADDRESSED IN PUBLIC HEARING MAY 29

MEDIA CONTACT: Adam Schnieders, DNR Environmental Program Supervisor, 515-281-7409, or Adam.Schnieders@dnr.iowa.gov

DES MOINES – The stakeholder group reviewing topsoil preservation requirements for construction activities, also known as the Executive Order (EO) 80 Stakeholder Group, will hold a public hearing May 29 at 10 a.m. at the Wallace State Office Building auditorium on second floor.

The hearing is in regard to alternatives to the four inches of topsoil requirement in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit No. 2 for Storm Water Discharges Associated with Construction Activities.

The rule is effective until October 1, 2017, but concerns have been expressed by impacted individuals that the cost and impacts of the topsoil preservation requirements are greater than anticipated when implemented in 2012. The costs are borne by developers and home buyers.

To join the meeting via conference call, dial (866) 685-1580.  When the call is answered, follow the prompts by entering the conference code of 4510673319 followed by the pound sign (#).

The EO80 Stakeholders Group members are: Pat Sauer, Iowa Storm Water Education Program; Creighton Cox, Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines; Joe Pietruszynski of Hubbell Realty; Chip Classon, Jerry’s Homes; Lucy Hershberger, Forever Green Inc.; Mark Watkins, McAninch Corporation; and Chad Ingels, member of the Environmental Protection Commission.

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