April 2010
Issue # 38
Welcome to Runoff Rundown, the Center for Watershed Protection's quarterly electronic newsletter! You receive this letter because you have signed up through the Center for Watershed Protection or are a member of the Association of Watershed and Stormwater Professionals.

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In March, the Center for Watershed Protection launched the first association designed for watershed and stormwater professionals. AWSPs is a comprehensive membership program designed to:
  • Advance a more holistic approach to environmental management through the promotion of watershed management practices and
  • Advance the watershed profession by providing technical support materials and networking opportunities.
We estimate that there are over 250,000 individuals in this profession and that they are eager to seek the opportunity to network with their colleagues and know where to go to stay abreast of the latest information on watershed and stormwater management. Join us and become a member of AWSPs today.

Runoff Ramblings

Runoff Ramblings author David Hirschman, Program Director at the Center, is at it again. This time he asks whether MS4s are taking an unfair share of the regulatory burden through a conversation with "MS-4-lorn" & "MS-4-titude."
Are MS4s Carrying A Disproportionate Regulatory Burden? 
An (ongoing) Debate Between MS-4-lorn & MS-4-titude

First. . .an admission.  Prior to joining the Center, I worked for a moderate-size county that became an MS4 during my tenure in the Public Works Department.  As a result, I tend to be sympathetic to the plight of local governments struggling to comply with the permit regulations. The vagaries of local government operation do not often mesh so neatly with the six minimum measures. 

I have heard the argument that MS4s are shouldering a disproportionate share of water quality responsibility compared to other sectors, especially given the increasing trend to link TMDL waste load allocations to MS4 permits (see Figure 1).  On a watershed scale, MS4s only make up a certain percentage of the land area. What about loads from agriculture, industrial sites, towns, cities, and counties that are not MS4s (yet)?  Do these sectors have permit obligations commensurate with their contributions to the problem?    
ants go marching image

The ants go marching. . .why is the MS4
Carrying so much extra? (photo courtesy: USDA)
This general attitude of the overburdened MS4 can be personified as "MS4-lorn."  The MS4 alter-ego, "MS4-titude," boldly states that, indeed, it is time for MS4s to step up to the plate and take care of polluted runoff from municipal streets, parking lots, lawns, and construction sites. I think I smell a debate brewing.
MS4-lorn: Look, we MS4s make up approximately 2% of the total land area of the U.S. (U.S. EPA, 2005), yet we have almost all of the pollutant reduction responsibility for developed areas.  What gives?  Even if we were completely successful with the task, what about the other 98% of the country?
MS4-titude: Well, we may be 2% of the land area, but we also represent 70% or more of the population (U.S. EPA, 2005) and probably a whole lot of the impervious cover.  Urban stormwater is also the primary source of impairment for 13% of rivers, 18% of lakes, and 32% of estuaries (NRC, 2008).  In this regard, we are uniquely responsible for managing the impacts of urban stormwater.
MS4-lorn: Be that as it may, there are still a lot of other pollutant sources or sectors (e.g., agriculture, industry, non-MS4 cities and towns) that don't have the same permit obligations.  From a permit standpoint, we are treated just like a point source, yet our system is so much more complex than a pipe coming out of a factory.  The sources of pollutant are dispersed across the landscape, and our ability to influence the quality of the ultimate receiving water is quite limited.
MS4-titude: That means it's time to get with the program and figure out how to have that type of influence. We have other types of infrastructure - water, wastewater, transportation, solid waste - where we have to exercise that type of control, so why not stormwater?  The best management practices (BMPs) are well known, so the real issue is figuring out implementation.  Often, that's a problem of political will, and not technical know-how.
MS4-lorn: You are absolutely correct about political will, MS4-titude, and I'll also throw in local budgets.  In the world of our elected officials, stormwater just doesn't rank when stacked against education, public safety, transportation, and other local concerns.  I've tried to talk to them about the permit responsibilities, but it's a tough sell. If the feds and state want this level of implementation, they should ante up.
MS4-titude: Dream away, MS4-lorn. I agree that elected officials are a tough audience, though.  In our community, we started with some high profile stormwater projects at schools, and included hands-on activities and tours for students, local staff, developers, and site designers.  Once the elected officials could see stormwater in action, it became something they were proud of and understood better.  When discussing these issues with elected officials and the public, think about using "Water Words That Work," such as the advice at the following website: http://waterwordsthatwork.com/
MS4-lorn: MS4-titude - your optimism is quite annoying!  Well, how about this --  the regulators are now tying TMDLs to MS4 permits.  Some of the newer permits require the retrofit of pre-existing impervious cover (not just new development and redevelopment).  The tough-talkers are even saying there will be a waste load reduction allocation for existing development.  How can we possibly go into pre-existing neighborhoods, shopping centers, and commercial areas and mandate some type of stormwater retrofit? Surely, even you must think that this represents egregious regulatory heavy-handedness!
MS4-titude: Well, MS4-lorn, it's time to stop whining and think creatively. 
MS4-lorn: Oh, give me a break. . .
MS4-titude: Create a cost-share or tax incentive program for existing commercial property owners. Explore a pollutant trading program whereby new development (or redevelopment) offsets some of its pollutant load by paying for high priority retrofits to existing developed areas. Work with your transportation, parks, and schools departments to build retrofits into capital improvement projects. Seek "outside-the-box" retrofits such as stream, riparian, and wetland restoration, residential downspout disconnection programs, stormdrain stenciling, pollution prevention programs, etc. With a little creativity, we MS4s can make a big difference to our streams and waterways.
MS4-lorn: Head 4-Lorn
CWP Moderator: OK, enough bickering.  You've both made some interesting points. 
Let's take a step back and look at a particular case study.  I happen to live in the James River Watershed in Virginia.  It is a large watershed (over 10,000 square miles) with 17 MS4 communities (11 cities and 6 counties).  It also has large expanses of farmland, forest, and many smaller non-MS4 communities. 
According to a quick analysis, MS4s comprise approximately one-quarter of the land area in the watershed, but nearly three-quarters of the population and over 60% of the impervious cover (see Figure 2). Recent models from the Chesapeake Bay Program indicate that developed areas contribute approximately 20% of nutrient loads to the Bay (U.S. EPA, 2009).    

Pie charts 

So. . .are MS4s disproportionately burdened with permits and regulations?  Certainly, as MS4-lorn and MS4-titude have argued adeptly, the answer lies in your perspective.  However, MS4s may not have the luxury to argue interminably about this, especially if the EPA or state auditors show up.  So, some attitude of "getting with the program" is advisable.  This is also justified from a water quality standpoint, if MS4s comprise a majority of the populations and a substantial percentage of impervious cover in our watersheds.  
In the future, "watershed-based permitting," as recommended by the National Research Council, may make the whole system more rational (NRC, 2008).  In the meantime, the base level of stormwater literacy among MS4s certainly needs to ramp up.
Have I become a turncoat, and changed my loyalties concerning MS4s?  Perhaps so, but I also think this represents a combination of pragmatism (it is required), idealism (we deserve and can achieve cleaner water in our municipalities), and impatience (let's stop arguing and start solving problems).
What are your thoughts?  Please email us at rambler@cwp.org and let us know what you think about the assertions of MS4-lorn, MS4-titude, or your own musings.
-David J. Hirschman, Program Director
Note: Municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) are localities and other institutions that must obtain and comply with federal and state pollutant discharge permits.  Phase 1 MS4s represent larger communities (roughly greater than 100,000 in population), while Phase 2 MS4s are smaller communities (roughly greater than 50,000). In essence, MS4s must develop local stormwater programs to address discharges from the municipal system into receiving waters.
Commonwealth of Virginia. 2005. Chesapeake Bay Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Tributary Strategy for the James River, Lynnhaven and Poquoson Coastal Basins.
James River Association.  About the James webpage.
National Research Council. 2008. Urban Stormwater Management in the United States. The National Academies Press.
U.S. Census Bureau. State and County QuickFacts.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2009. Chesapeake Bay TMDL Resource Library, Slide: N and P values from the 2008 Scenario of Phase 5.2 Watershed Model.  http://www.epa.gov/reg3wapd/tmdl/ChesapeakeBay/ResourceLibrary.html#keydocs
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2005. Storm Water Phase II Final Rule.  Urbanized Areas: Definition and Description.  EPA 833-F-00-004, Fact Sheet 2.2. December 1999 (revised December 2005).
Feature Article
water drops Is Watershed Planning the key to fixing MS4 Permits?

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit Program has been in existence for over 15 years. While the program has resulted in the construction of thousands of management practices and the protection of thousands of acres of sensitive lands, local state and federal regulators as well as the environmental community give the MS4 Program low marks regarding its overall success in meeting the goals of the Clean Water Act (CWA). To their credit, EPA is planning to initiate national rulemaking for establishing a comprehensive program which would not only reduce stormwater discharges from new and redevelopment but also significantly enhance the MS4 Program.
After holding several listening sessions to solicit stakeholder input and publishing a request for written comments in the Federal Register, EPA is particularly interested in comments on Best Management Practice performance and costs, post construction runoff control criteria and guidance on retrofitting. Their  hope is to provide greater consistency and standardization among Phase I and II communities.

The Center for Watershed Protection lauds EPA for this effort and appreciates the need to focus on these specific areas. However, there should be as much effort spent on program integration as on improving individual programs. The program-centric approach to the MS4 permits is one of its chief failings and has resulted in inconsistent standards of success.  For instance, MS4 permits might  require a municipality to develop  watershed restoration plans and maintain a program for controlling post construction runoff from development.  However there is no requirement to integrate these programs. Therefore, the impacts from new development are not accounted for in watershed restoration plans, making it almost impossible for the permit to achieve a water quality-based outcome.

We suggest that EPA consider a comprehensive watershed planning approach as the framework for the MS4 Program.  The planning goal should be tied to attaining water quality standards (e.g., TMDLs). However, the singular focus of traditional TMDL is  overly simplistic and contrary to what is needed to restore ecosystems which is the goal of the CWA.
Fortunately, state and local governments are adopting a more comprehensive, decentralized approach to managing stormwater by integrating site development and low impact development techniques. Care must be taken not to view site level solutions as the panacea for managing our urban watersheds. Site-level solutions cannot solve system-wide problems. What is needed is a wider planning view that encompasses the ecosystem at the watershed scale. The cost of urban BMPs is exorbitant and it will be almost impossible to justify their widespread implementation unless their benefits are broadened to include more comprehensive societal benefits. This will require a reconciliation of natural and built ecosystem goals, which is one of the basic tenets of the "sustainability" movement.

A "sustainable" watershed plan first must identify sensitive ecosystem features within a watershed and protect and or restore these elements. These areas must become sacrosanct features of the landscape that planners must learn to incorporate into their building envelopes and transportation infrastructure with the greatest care. Here is where flexibility is the key, using an adaptive management process to find the best mix of mitigation and restoration measures to meet ecosystem goals. Tools within this tool-box include intra- basin "trading" and offsetting, environmental site design, and housekeeping practices.

Finding new and improved technologies is an essential part of this strategy, and science plays a key role in determining which practices work best and their collective benefit at the ecosystem-watershed scale. Both the public and key decision-makers have historically viewed science as the enemy of (BMP) implementation because of the time and resources associated with quantifying benefits.  However, this view is the enemy of innovation as an iterative science-based process is essential to determine the most optimal path to reach our restoration goals.

We are at a critical juncture in the history of the MS4 Program. The Program has failed to meet its goals because of its program-centric approach and lack of a common yardstick for measuring success. We feel strongly that the program must adopt a watershed planning approach that focuses on ecosystem endpoints. The ecosystem must include the natural as well as the built environment and the value of restoration must be integrated to recognize broader societal benefits.  Watershed management plans are not static and must continually seek-out new solutions that are validated by scientific process.

-- Bill Stack, Deputy Director of Programs
CWP Webcasts

The schedule of webcasts for 2010 can be found here at www.cwp.org/Webcasts.
The next webcast is entitled "The Watershed Treatment Model, a TMDL and MS4 Tracking Tool." This webcast is highly recommended for communities seeking ways to track their progress on TMDLs. Check out our Webcast website for the newest topics, information on CEUs, details about speakers, and to register to attend. To register by mail and review a brochure for the 2009 Webcasts, click here.

And remember, you can save on webcast costs by becoming a members of AWSPs.

Where We're Speaking

Nonpoint Source Pollution Conference May 17-19, 2010. Plymouth, MA
Sadie Drescher will speak about our Coastal Stormwater Project.
Joe Battiata will speak about Virginia's Runoff Reduction Method for stormwater management.

River Rally 2010 May 21-24, 2010. Snowbird, UT. Organized by River Network.
Greg Hoffmann will speak about stormwater retrofitting practices.
Bryan Seipp will speak about Urban Watershed Forestry.
Coastal States Society's 22nd International Conference, Shifting Shorelines: Adapting to the Future June 13-16, 2010. Wilmington, NC
Sadie Drescher will speak about our Coastal Stormwater Project.
2010 Ohio Stormwater Conference June 10-11, 2010. Sandusky, OH
Dave Hirschman will be the keynote speaker for this conference!
2010 StormCon August 1 -5, 2010. San Antonio, TX
Dave Hirschman will speak about Adopting Stormwater BMPs for Tropical Watersheds; and Implementing Runoff Reduction Through State Regulations.
Lori Lilly will speak about an Impervious Cover TMDL project in Connecticut.
Julie Schneider will speak about the remaking of our Better Site Design guidance for development.
Conferences and Abstracts

July 15-16, 2010. Three national experts in bioretention research are joining forces to present the "Bioretention Research & Design Summit: Ask the Researchers." Drs. Allen Davis (University of Maryland), William (Bill) Hunt (North Carolina State University), and Robert Traver (Villanova University) have a combined over 30 years of bioretention research among them. A Summit will take place in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 29-30, 2010 and again in Annapolis, Maryland on. A third Summit is being planned for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania either later this year or in 2011. For more information click here.

18-21 July 2010. The 65th SWCS Annual Conference and Call for Presentations and Symposia: Ecosystem Services: Applications for Conservation Science, Policy, and Practice. All conservation professionals are encouraged to submit abstracts for oral and poster presentations as well as symposia descriptions for the 2010 Soil and Water Conservation Society Annual Conference to be held in St. Louis, Missouri. Abstracts are due by December 17, 2009.

23-27 August 2010. 2010 Watershed Management Conference: Innovations in Watershed Management Under Land Use and Climate Change will be held in Madison, Wisconsin. This conference will highlight innovative approaches for managing water resources under climate and land use change. Relevant topics include hydrologic measurement and modeling, integrated and/or adaptive water management, aquatic ecosystem restoration, risk-based design, and the use of regional predictions of climate change. Call for Papers deadline is April 21, 2010.

Nov 1-4, 2010 AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference which will be held at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Call for Abstracts deadline is May 14, 2010.

2010 Partners in Community Forestry National Conference, November 9-11, at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel.
Cool Links
cool links graphic "Cool Links" provides information on some new or new-found resources that are helpful to watershed managers and stormwater professionals.

1) The wonderful features of these websites are that they use a wiki approach to information on watersheds. For the techno-impaired, a wiki approach allows multiple people to edit/ add information with the goal of achieving more accuracy, depth, and breadth of information. The result can be a spectacular array of information on streams and rivers. The more widely used the sites are, the more in-depth the information can be and the more positive the implications for those collecting data in the areas that they work. Here are two that we thought were worth checking out.

2) Get your popcorn ready for 15-20 minutes of video on Stormwater Retrofitting. With some help from professional filmmakers, the Center for Watershed Protection has developed three videos. Narrated by our own Greg Hoffmann, the videos include staff Kelly Collins and Chris Swann.  Here are the links. Let us know what you think.
Stormwater Retrofitting, Video 1
Stormwater Retrofitting, Video 2
Stormwater Retrofitting, Video 3

See a nice case study of a Stormwater Pond in the Turkey Branch of Montgomery County. Featuring Bob Hoyt of Montgomery County Maryland's Department of the Environment, it gives some nice information about how retrofits are used to treat runoff.
3) Free Webcast Available at EPA
May is American Wetlands Month and EPA is celebrating by providing interested registrants to a free EPA Watershed Academy Webcast entitled, "Tools for Protecting Coastal Wetlands" on Tuesday, May 4th from 1-3pm Eastern time. To register, go to their website www.epa.gov/watershedwebcasts.

4) New Book- Up River by George Ivey
This novel about saving the Awaknee River in the Southern Appalachian mountains was recently published by George Ivey. Link to the website for more information and links to the first few pages of the novel and reviews.

5) The Chesapeake Stormwater Network has a TECHNICAL BULLETIN No. 8 entitled "The Clipping Point: Turf Cover Estimates for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and Management Implications." Check out this article and others here.

6) The California state water resources control board has some great new ads and posters focused on pet waste and litter that can be downloaded and tailored here.
Runoff Rundown Team: Hye Yeong Kwon, Karen Cappiella, and contributions from Center staff.
Center for Watershed Protection
In This Issue
Runoff Ramblings
Feature Article
CWP Webcasts
Other Conferences
Cool Links