Connecticut River Watershed Action Plan: Remove impervious surfaces within 50 feet of streams

In 2003, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs published a Connecticut River 5-Year Watershed Action Plan For the Massachusetts Section of the Watershed (PDF). In the interests of filtering out stormwater pollution and reducing peak flows during storms, this plan calls for the removal of impervious surfaces within 50 feet of streams. We believe Northampton’s proposed wetlands ordinance, which encourages developers in downtown districts to encroach as close as 10 feet to wetlands and intermittent streams such as Millyard Brook, contradicts the spirit of this recommendation.

To reduce nonpoint source pollution from stormwater runoff, the Connecticut River Strategic Plan proposes the removal of impervious surfaces within 50 feet of streams and the investigation of “functional replacements” (such as the use of permeable pavement) for impervious surfaces within 100 feet of streams, in developed areas (PVPC, 2001). In the urbanized areas, the removal or retrofitting of impervious areas and the implementation of Stormwater Best Management Practices (BMPs) could be beneficial in improving water quality. The interception and redirection of stormwater, that would otherwise enter storm drains and CSOs, would contribute to the reduction of peak flow during heavy storms. One example is to collect runoff from roofs for use in lawn irrigation.

…Areas with high percentages of impervious surfaces are most likely to be affected by increase stormwater runoff into rivers and streams. (p.46)

See also:

Gazette: “The Connecticut River: A sewer runs through it” (9/15/08)
When heavy rains pound the Valley, overburdened sewers – particularly in the Holyoke, Springfield and Chicopee regions – will dump raw sewage into the river, Curtis [Christopher L. Curtis, chief planner and section manager for land use and environment at PVPC] said…

While sewage is a problem for the Connecticut River, farms and suburban life are also taking a toll on water quality.

Storm water carrying road salt, automotive oils and lawn chemicals, among other pollutants, flows into the river from populated areas along its banks…

As the region continues to grow and develop, we tend to generate more storm-water runoff and pollutants. We are constantly working to address that problem,” said Curtis.

The Times-Picayune: “Despite vows, Gulf’s ‘dead zone’ growing” (12/3/07)
Fertilizer runoff and wastewater from farms and towns upstream in the nation’s heartland pour billions of pounds of excess nutrients into the Mississippi, and eventually the Gulf [of Mexico], each year, sparking unnatural algae blooms that choke off the oxygen supply vital for marine life…

…the dead zone is still growing — reaching nearly 8,000 square miles this year — one of the largest recorded…

The USDA provides incentives to encourage farmers to retire farmland to prevent erosion, restore wetlands that could soak up fertilizer runoff and install buffers between fields and streams. EPA programs encourage states to set limits on the nutrients released into their waterways.

But the majority of these programs are voluntary, relying on farmers or municipalities who may never have seen the Gulf of Mexico to take the initiative.

Springfield Wetland Regulations: “A Minimum of a fifty (50) foot undisturbed buffer”
A minimum of a fifty (50) foot undisturbed buffer shall be established adjacent to any vegetated wetland, bank, lake, stream or river, intermittent or continuous, natural or artificial and certified or uncertified vernal pools. No work, structures or alterations will be allowed within the fifty (50) foot buffer…

Intermittent Streams Merit a 100-Foot Buffer Zone in Hopkinton
Here is a bylaw from Hopkinton’s Wetlands Protection Regulations (PDF) requiring a 100-foot buffer zone around intermittent (and continuous) streams. We note that just such an intermittent stream, Millyard Brook, runs through the heart of the forest behind North Street that Kohl Construction intends to build on.

Maps: Millyard Brook and Surrounding Wetlands a Longstanding Feature of Ward 3