Final 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 Amount: $556,981
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1996) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water
The overall objective of this project was 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 is degrading to stream ecosystem health and the stream community. We have determined which sets of regulations, enforcement strategies, and landscapes can 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.
Many regulations and policy incentives have been devised to control sediment pollution of our rivers. Yet there has rarely been an attempt to integrate the policies with the ecology of the rivers. That was 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 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 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. The three 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 chose 17 construction sites along streams in three jurisdictions. At each one we sampled 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 collected benthic samples for empirical biomonitoring data (benthos and fish), water chemistry and leaf litter decomposition rates to document changes in stream ecosystems among these different regulatory regimes. Virtually all "at the site" samples showed some degradation relative to upstream controls. Downstream of the construction sites, the impacts were highly variable. Degree of degradation was significantly impacted by enforcement activities with stronger enforcement producing less environmental impact on the streams. The stringency of the regulations proved unimportant by comparison.
We asked "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. For each construction project in the study we surveyed and interviewed the developers for their attitudes on erosion and sediment control regulations, enforcement practices and environmental effectiveness. The analysis shows strong relationships between staffing, workload, attitudes and enforcement activities. As the regulators' workload increases, their task becomes more difficult and results in less vigorous enforcement of the regulations. This, with the inspectors' frustration, results in the regulators adopting a more forgiving attitude toward developers. The results of the developer interviews are still being analyzed.