Coastal storm-water rules were first adopted in the state about 20 years ago. In 2005, the state Division of Water Quality determined that 90 percent of shellfish water closures were caused by storm-water runoff and that the rules needed to be updated to protect the coastal waters. But the construction and real estate industries objected strongly to changes in the threshold for low and high density.
The rule would reduce from 25 percent to 12 percent the allowed impervious, or hardened, surfaces in development within a half-mile from draining into shellfish waters. But 90 percent of the state's 20 coastal counties fall outside of the half-mile. For those areas, the permitted impervious surface would fall from 30 percent to 24 percent.
The new rule, approved in March, also would increase the vegetated setback from 30 feet to 50 feet, prohibit the use of wetlands in impervious surface calculations and lower allowable land disturbance from 1 acre to 10,000 square feet.
One comment that I found particularly interesting:
"The economy is at the edge of the recession and we don't need to stress them out any more," he said. "If you hamstring economic development more than you've done, you've set a bad cat loose."
We need to find ways to allow development without continuing this chronic degradation of coastal waters. I am not convinced that we should avoid environmental regulations because of economic downturns.