New EPA rules can benefit marinas and boating

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It’s not too often we can be thankful at Thanksgiving for some new federal agency rules. But, the Environmental protection Agency has just issued a final rule aimed at reducing water pollution from construction sites. And, while I suspect the agency officials were not thinking about benefits for marinas and boating when they promulgated these rules, implementing them will do so. The rules, which will be phased in over four years starting February 2010, will require construction site owners and operators to implement a range of erosion and sediment control measures. In addition, pollution prevention practices to control pollutants in discharges from building sites will also come into play.

Activities like clearing, excavating and grading significantly disturb soil and sediment. Proper management of the soils can prevent it from being washed off the construction site into nearby waterways during storms. EPA maintains these new requirements will improve the quality of the nation’s water. That’s benefit enough for boating! But there’s more.

A reduction is soil and sediments can have a positive impact on such things as fish and desirable vegetation because of the improved overall aquatic environment. But it doesn’t end there, either.

The new rules are projected to reduce the amount of sediment discharged from construction sites by 4 billion pounds each year. That's sediment that currently goes into our waterways often ends up in navigational channels and in adjacent marinas. The result is that millions of dollars must be spent annually to dredge the sediment from the channels and marinas.

I know first hand. For many years I kept my boat on a small river in Eastlake, Ohio. Several miles upstream were large construction projects. Due to a lack of adequate requirements concerning the control of sediment runoff from such sites, the marina owners and boat clubs located downstream were forced to pay for expensive annual dredging to stay operational. We always asked the rhetorical question: Why do people upstream fail to control their runoff and we get stuck picking up the tab for dredging it up so we can operate our marinas?

Now I’m not saying, of course, that these new EPA rules will eliminate all the dredging problems. Hardly! But, if they save marina owners and their customers even a small percentage of the annual dredging needed nowadays, it will be a most welcomed benefit to boating.

Incidentally, this is the first time the EPA has imposed national monitoring requirements with enforceable numeric limitations on construction site stormwater discharges. Looking ahead, many bodies of water could see some benefits from these new rules.

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