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Central Ohio Group Issues

This article was submitted for the March / April 2006  issue of the newsletter.

CLEAN WATER NEWS FOR CENTRAL OHIO

By , Central Ohio Water Quality Coordinator
Draft Approval for Sewer Improvement Projects to 2010

The Ohio EPA held a public hearing on Jan. 31, 2006, on its draft approval for the Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage Interim Control Plan.  The Interim Plan is the first part of the City’s long term plan to improve the sewer system and reduce discharges of untreated sewage.  The Interim Plan proposes three projects which will be constructed by 2010:  expansion at the two City sewage treatment plants, raising regulator gates that discharge sewage mixed with storm water, and constructing a large sewer pipe from the Whittier Peninsula down to the Jackson Pike treatment plant for those combined flows.

The City and Ohio EPA are in a hurry to get moving to meet the deadline of reducing combined sewage discharges 70% by 2010.  The Sierra Club is pressuring for environmental restoration of areas disturbed by construction.

Darby Update

The Big Darby Creek watershed is one of the most outstanding stream areas in the Midwest. The Nature Conservancy calls it the best stream in Central Ohio and one of the best in the state.  The Big Darby is a state and national scenic river and was named one of the most endangered rivers nationally by American Rivers in 2004.  There is a map of the Big Darby Creek watershed at www.epa.state.oh.us/dsw/permits/BigDarbyWatershedMap/index.html.

The Darby Creeks watershed area is an example of how water and wastewater utilities are linked with conservation.  The future of this wonderful area depends to a large degree on how successfully development is planned.  And development depends on water and sewers.

 In November 2002 Columbus City Council passed a moratorium on new water and sewer lines into the Darby watershed area after citizens collected enough signatures to introduce the issue onto the ballot. This original moratorium has been extended until June of 2006, although there have been some variances granted.

In January 2003 the Ohio EPA Central Scioto Plan Update identified an Environmentally Sensitive Development Area in the Darby watershed and prohibited sewer development until OEPA approved a development plan that would protect the Big Darby and its Hellbranch Run tributary. 

In 2004, the Big Darby Accord began. Ten jurisdictions in the Big Darby Watershed within Franklin County resolved to work together cooperatively to develop a multi-jurisdictional plan and accompanying preservation and growth strategies, capable of implementation, oversight and enforcement to preserve and protect the Big Darby Creek and its tributaries. They hired a consultant (EDAW, Inc., an international company that specializes in landscape design, economics, environment and planning) to help come up with a plan that would accomplish preservation and growth.  EDAW presented three proposals in October, 2005, which environmentalists blasted as pro-development.  EDAW produced another plan in December which concentrates growth between I-70 and US 40 west of Amity Road and calls for a way to transfer development rights to preserve land outside of the development zone.

By the middle of 2006 the moratorium on sewer extensions and development will end.  The Sierra Club supports the efforts of the Darby Creeks Association, the Nature Conservancy, and other groups to coordinate a plan that will protect these special watersheds.  For more information visit the Darby Creeks Association at www.darbycreeks.org.

Columbus City Council Update

Columbus City Council meetings are held most Mondays at 5 pm at City Hall, 90 West Broad Street.  The Columbus City Council website contains information on council members, meeting schedules, agendas, etc.  Council meetings are broadcast live on Government TV, Channel 3.

City Council approves the city budget.  In early February, Council appropriated general funds for 2006: about 70% of general monies go to police and fire.  Three departments (Recreation, Health, and Development) each get about 4% of general monies.  Elected officials get about 10% of the budget.  Total general expenditures for 2006 are budgeted at $598 million.

Departments that can charge fees are called “enterprise divisions,” and have separate budgets.  The Department of Public Utilities has about $400 million appropriated for 2006.  The Division of Sewerage and Drainage’s budget alone is $172 million.  Income is almost entirely from rates charged for sewer, storm water, and water utility services.  The rate increase for sewer, storm water, and water will be about 10% for most customers in 2006, for an average bill of $604 per year.  For the first time, there will be a low income discount available.  Since Columbus utilities service about 80% of the people in the region, including many other area municipalities, rate increases will affect most central Ohioans

 It is a problem that the Columbus mayor and City Council, who propose, direct, and approve expenditures by the Columbus Dept. of Public Utilities, are not elected by voters from communities outside Columbus who are served by the Columbus Division of Sewerage and Drainage. This includes Bexley, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Grove City, Hilliard, Lockbourne, New Albany, Obetz, Reynoldsburg, Whitehall, Westerville, Worthington, Upper Arlington and others for a total of 22 jurisdictions in and around Columbus. Residents of those other cities can, however, urge their elected officials to work with Columbus and Ohio EPA to improve sewer, storm water, and water systems. The satellite community is often responsible for the sewage collection system within its borders, and Columbus takes the effluent. OEPA is targeting satellite communities, since Columbus cannot control these communities’ sewer systems. Joint ventures between Columbus and these communities are needed.

Sierra Club Slide Show: Wastewater in Your Community

The Central Ohio Group has created an informative presentation on sewage and storm water—in your community, in the city, and in the region. This is a great way to learn more about sewer construction improvements that are proposed and how they will affect your neighborhood.  You can find out what resources are available and how to access them.  And, of course, there are lots of things individuals can do on their own properties.   If you have suggestions or are a member of a group that would like to have this presentation, contact .

Ten jurisdictions in the Big Darby Watershed within Franklin County resolved to work together cooperatively to develop a multi-jurisdictional plan and accompanying preservation and growth strategies, capable of implementation, oversight and enforcement to preserve and protect the Big Darby Creek and its tributaries.
The rate increase for sewer, storm water, and water will be about 10% for most customers in 2006, for an average bill of $604 per year. For the first time, there will be a low income discount available.

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