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Cincinnati Collaborates With Hamilton County on a Watershed Approach to Stormwater


The City of Cincinnati and its neighbor, Hamilton County, have joined forces to control stormwater, that urban runoff triggered by rainstorms, which must be channeled and treated so as not to become an environmental hazard. Through a series of city/county workshops, the two local governments have learned how to cooperate to meet this environmental challenge.

With seed money from the Joint Center for Sustainable Communities, the Hamilton County Wet Weather Initiative Committee held a successful Conference this summer on promoting the "Watershed Approach to Stormwater Management."

Watershed-based storm and floodwater management uses a comprehensive effort to address multiple issues within a defined geographical area. The watershed approach is a stakeholder driven process to identify problem areas, prioritize the problems, and develop holistic, integrated solutions.

Peter Swenson, Wet Weather Coordinator in EPA's Region V office in Chicago highlighted what local government and developers should expect from new federal stormwater regulations (NPDES Phase II) that were released in November 1999. Nationwide, this program required compliance for about 110,000 smaller municipalities with populations under 100,000 and additional political jurisdictions and owners and operator of storm sewer systems located in urbanized areas. In Hamilton County alone, over 40 municipalities and townships will be subject to the Phase II regulations.

The conference also featured a variety of "how to" workshops. The final session of the day broke the seminar participants into three groups based on the three primary watersheds in Hamilton County- the Great Miami River, Little Miami River and the Mill Creek. Information concerning current conservation efforts was shared and short and long-term objectives were determined. Proceedings for this conference can be accessed at www.hcdoes.org.

The watershed groups were reconvened at a follow-up seminar the Hamilton County Wet Weather Initiative Committee sponsored on December 8, 1999 at the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing Science in Cincinnati, Ohio. The engineering firm Fuller, Mossbarger, Scott and May provided a creative, more detailed overview of the NPDES Phase II regulations through a town meeting program. A copy of this program can be obtained by sending your request to Holly Utrata-Halcomb at Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District, 29 Triangle Park Drive, Suite 2901, Cincinnati, Ohio 45246.

The watershed sessions focused on short-term obtainable objectives and increasing communication. Public education and based line monitoring of the streams are examples of spin-off projects that came from this session.

With the addition of NPDES Phase II permits, the duties of public works managers move beyond traditional drainage. Difficult decisions and complex public policies must be considered. Elected and appointed officials must consider the impacts of proposed projects on their communities and the environment. Cincinnati and Hamilton County are getting a jump-start on this task with as much public input as possible.


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