1998 Progress Report: Effectiveness of Regulatory Incentives for Sediment Pollution Prevention: Evaluation Through Policy Analysis and BiomonitoringEPA 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 Period Covered by this Report: October 15, 1997 through October 14, 1998
Project Amount: $556,981
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1996) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Watersheds , Water
Objective:The overall objective of this project is to determine the effectiveness of different environmental policies, regulations and incentives in reducing the ecological risks and consequences of sedimentation to streams. We are trying to learn which sets of regulations, enforcement strategies, and landscapes result in effective protection of stream communities from the degradation which results from erosion and sedimentation from construction sites. By connecting the efforts at erosion control to the environmental impact, the aim is to create more effective management strategies to ultimately provide environmentally sustainable social and economic development in our watersheds.
Progress Summary: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. 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. What combinations of policies, regulations and on site interactions between regulators and developers really work to enhance stream biota and ecosystem health. How do the attitudes and behaviors of regulators and developers interact? What is the result of these interactions for stream ecosystem health?
These goals are be accomplished by comparing similar streams in different regulatory jurisdictions (a comparative watershed approach). We are testing the effectiveness of different intensities of sediment control standards and enforcement. We are using the streams to tell us what matters ecologically. These chosen political jurisdictions differ in the stringency of their erosion and sediment control requirements and the nature and intensity of enforcement of the regulations. We have chosen 18 construction sites along streams in three jurisdictions. At each one we are sampling upstream, downstream and at the construction site. We sample before construction begins, during the peak land disturbance and after the project is completed and released by the regulatory agency. We are collecting empirical biomonitoring data, water chemistry and leaf litter decomposition rates to document changes in stream ecosystems among these different regulatory regimes. The before and during construction samples are completed for nearly all sites. The data is analyzed to date and more samples are being collected. At present virtually all "at the site" samples show some degradation relative to upstream controls. Downstream of the construction sites, the impacts are highly variable.
We are asking "Which erosion and sediment control regulations really work and why?" We have analyzed the actual erosion and sedimentation control regulations and compared them among the jurisdictions. Then we surveyed the attitudes and enforcement activities at all levels within each jurisdiction. The preliminary analysis suggests relationships between staffing, workload, attitudes and enforcement activities. As the regulators' workload increases their task becomes more difficult. This may result in regulators adopting a more forgiving attitude toward developers and less vigorous enforcement of the regulations. We are in the process of surveying and interviewing members of the development community.