1999 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: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: October 15, 1996 through October 14, 1999 (Extended to October 14, 2000)
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 15, 1998 through October 14, 1999
Project Amount: $556,981
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1996) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and 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. Sedimentation and erosion from construction sites are degrading to stream ecosystem health and the stream community. We are learning which sets of regulations, enforcement strategies, and landscapes result in effective protection of stream communities from this degradation. We have made the connections between the efforts at erosion control to the environmental impacts of construction in the watershed. Our ultimate aim is to create more effective management strategies to 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 rarely has been an attempt to integrate the policies with the ecology of the rivers. That is the goal of this research. This work integrates 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 onsite 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 have been accomplished by comparing similar streams in different regulatory jurisdictions (a comparative watershed approach). We have tested 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 sampled before construction began, during the peak land disturbance, and after the project was completed and released by the regulatory agency. We have collected empirical biomonitoring data, water chemistry, and leaf litter decomposition rates to document changes in stream ecosystems among these different regulatory regimes. Samples have been collected and identified for all but the AFTER samples at two construction sites, where the work is not yet finished. The data are now being analyzed.
Virtually all "at the site" samples show degradation relative to upstream controls. Downstream of the construction sites, the impacts are highly variable. We are using the extra year of the project to: (1) complete the analyses, and (2) resample selected streams to determine whether the flushing action of Hurricane Floyd in September 1999 has restored the stream health at these degraded sites.
We are asking the question: 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 have surveyed and interviewed members of the development community whose construction projects were included in our stream analyses.