Effectiveness of Regulatory Incentives for Sediment Pollution Prevention: Evaluation Through Policy Analysis and Biomonitoring

EPA Grant Number: R825286
Title: Effectiveness of Regulatory Incentives for Sediment Pollution Prevention: Evaluation Through Policy Analysis and Biomonitoring
Investigators: Reice, Seth , Andrews, Richard N.
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 15, 1996 through October 14, 1999 (Extended to October 14, 2000)
Project Amount: $556,981
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1996) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Watersheds , Water


A critical problem in American rivers and streams is sedimentation. Sedimentation degrades the water quality, alters the habitat for fish and macroinvertebrates, limits the ecosystem functions and services, and reduces the aesthetic and economic value of rivers and streams. Many regulations and policy incentives have been devised to control sediment pollution of our rivers. Yet there has rarely been an attempt to reconnect the policies with the ecology of the rivers. That is the goal of this research. The overall objective is to study the effectiveness of different policy incentives in the reduction of the ecological risks and consequences of sedimentation. The aim is to create more effective management strategies to provide environmentally sustainable social and economic development in our watersheds. This work will integrate the social and regulatory theory behind sediment ordinances and policies and the resultant ecological impacts of sedimentation on the rivers and streams. It will identify what policies and regulations really work to enhance stream biota and ecosystem health.

These aims will be accomplished by using a comparative watershed approach to contrast the ecological effects of different intensities of sediment control standards and enforcement. Similar watersheds will be selected from political jurisdictions which differ in the stringency of their sediment and erosion control requirements. Then empirical biomonitoring data, water chemistry and leaf litter decomposition rates will be used to document changes in stream ecosystems above and below construction projects in these different regulatory regimes. North Carolina has one of the strongest state laws in the nation for erosion and sedimentation control, and at least 36 of its county and municipal governments have enacted even more stringent control ordinances. The differences among these regulatory regimes, applied to similar types of socioeconomic activities (road and housing construction, commercial developments) on otherwise similar watersheds, offer opportunities to draw broader inferences on a comparative basis. An unusually detailed evaluation of the North Carolina erosion and sedimentation program provides substantial baseline and background information for our proposed research. The focus will be on the regulations governing controls on sedimentation into rivers and streams, to determine both their effectiveness and ecological consequences.

Direct comparison of differences in the programs' regulatory stringency (and related socioeconomic effects) with their ecological outcomes in the streams will expose what actually results in protection of stream ecosystems. This will determine the actual effectiveness of these regulations in maintaining stream ecosystem health, functioning and biodiversity. In the end, the answer to the question "What really works?" will become clear.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 10 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

sediment, watershed, public policy, regulation, ecology., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Waste, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Contaminated Sediments, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, exploratory research environmental biology, Chemical Mixtures - Environmental Exposure & Risk, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Effects - Human Health, Ecology and Ecosystems, decision-making, Watersheds, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, Ecological Indicators, ecosystem valuation, policy analysis, degradation, ecological exposure, contaminant transport, ecology, erosion, stream naturalization, valuation of watersheds, community-based research, sediment, contaminated sediment, socioeconomics, sediment pollution prevention, biomonitoring, ecological impacts, aquatic ecosystems, human values, North Carolina (NC), ecological benefits, community values

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • 1998 Progress Report
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • Final Report