Prevent Rollbacks to Water Protections at Construction Sites

Have you seen lakes and rivers that look murky or muddy?  That’s sediment pollution, and it’s not just an aesthetic problem.  Sediment pollution smothers aquatic habitat, causes declines in fish populations, and increases the risk of algal blooms.  It can cost millions of dollars to dredge sediment or treat algal blooms.

It turns out construction sites are a major source of sediment pollution.  When construction disturbs soil, rain and snow melt can wash that soil into storm drains, city streets, and into rivers and streams.  That’s why construction sites have to have run-off control plans.  Under the current state rules (which are required by the federal Clean Water Act), those run-off control plans are reviewed by local city or county storm water professionals who judge whether they are adequate.

Every construction site is different in size, lay-out, contour, soil type, construction activity, and relationship to local lakes and rivers.  That’s why the run-off control plans have to be individualized to the site.  The local storm water professionals are in the best position to judge what is needed at construction sites in their area.

In the 2018 Indiana General Assembly, HB 1096 attempted to strip away local storm water authority.  It would have prevented local storm water professionals from having any requirements for construction run-off more stringent than the state rule.  HB 1096 would have created problems by:

  • taking authority away from those who are most qualified.
  • undermining home rule.
  • reducing protection of Indiana’s lakes and rivers.
  • causing confusion. The bill says the locals are limited to the state’s rule, and the state’s rule says it’s up to the locals.
  • This kind of confusion from ‘no-more-stringent’ laws has led to lawsuits in other states.

Reduced protection.  The state rule requires run-off control plans for construction sites one acre or larger, and lets local authorities determine whether run-off plans are needed for sites under one acre.  By blocking local authority, HB 1096 would have increased sediment pollution from sites under one acre, and many construction sites are under one acre.

Confusion.  HB 1096 would also have increased sediment pollution by creating confusion that can leave the local stormwater authorities hesitant to act.  The confusion comes because HB 1096 limits the locals to the state’s rule, while the state’s rule delegates to the locals.

Status

Thanks to a tremendous coalition of opposition, your calls and emails, and the marshaling of our team, HB 1096 was defeated in Senate Environmental Affairs on a vote of 6 to 5 on Monday, February 19, 2018, and was not revived during the remainder of the 2018 session!

HEC HB1096 infosheet