Very few people in the Kansas City metropolitan area truly care about erosion and siltation control. Downstream lakes are another issue. The property values surrounding a residential lake are a direct function of the quality of the water in the lake. Because of their downstream location, they can very easily become storm water sewage treatment plants or silt retention basins for the entire watershed above them.
State riparian law requires that the runoff during construction and after construction not exceed the predevelopment volume and velocity or be less than the predevelopment quality. This never happens. Board members realize that this is the key to all of their water quality problems. If volume, velocity and material content are not controlled at the site of the development, all is lost.
Board members know that the developers in a watershed will be motivated to install the cheapest solution. This means that they will come in, clear the site, throw up some silt fence and maybe build some kind of undersized outfall retention basin with an ineffective outlet structure. Observation has shown us that once this is done there will be no maintenance of the silt fence or maintenance of the basins. The developer met the requirements of the plans on the one sunny day that the inspector signed them off and that is it! Nothing else will be done for the next three years that the subdivision is under construction. Once the project is accepted by Public Works the developer’s liability for the nuisance he created ends, even though the nuisance exists for two or three more years.
Board members worry about the cost of removing silt from their lake. The lifting cost is about $20.00 per cubic yard, if they have a place to store the silt. If they have to truck it away the cost can be $30.00 per cubic yard. A single 10-year rain at a vulnerable time can bring hundreds of cubic yards of silt into a lake or thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Board members worry about how they will remove all of the Styrofoam, pop bottles, oil cans, waste boards, tires and other garbage that wash in from construction sites, gas stations, fast food stores and apartment complexes. Surface trash before a rainstorm becomes a like pollutant after a rainstorm.
Board members know that because of the high velocity release rate that the developer’s engineer sold to the Public Works Department that the stream banks are eroding below the development. As the stream banks erode, trees and bush fall into the stream and wash into the lake. Large quantities of silt that come into the urban downstream lake come, not from the developments themselves, but from stream bank erosion caused by excessive volume and velocity of water from developments.
Some residents have never seen such rapid lake rise and to such a height before the development began. Board members are not professional engineers and do not understand all of the rhetoric about runoff rates and retention times. They only know what they see and it isn’t good and it was not happening before the development began. Common sense tells them that development in their watershed is the root cause, no matter what the engineer’s numbers pretend to prove.
Board members also worry about lawn chemicals being washed in from residential lawns upstream of the lake. The major culprit is phosphate. Once in the lake it is very difficult, if not almost impossible, to remove. Phosphate causes excessive algae growth, which in turn causes a loss of clarity in the water. Property value is a direct function of the clarity in the water. It also upsets the ecological balance of the lake causing changes in the mix of aquatic vertebrates and eventual loss of species in the lake.
Board members know that there are laws, ordinances, standards and regulations that are all intended to protect their lake, but none of them will be enforced by the state DNR, the city Public Works Department or the city Codes Enforcement Department. They will have to file a lawsuit to get any kind of fair treatment. They know that they will have to spend money and vast amounts of time along with expert witnesses and volunteer watershed monitors to develop their case. They also know that winning one case does not make the next one any easier to win, nor does it defer the next developer from acting the same as the last developer.
The developers create the erosion and sediment nuisance and should be responsible for it until the development is completed, to the last lot. A developer should not be allowed to create this problem and then walk away at the end of the civil construction, leaving everyone and no one in charge of sediment control for the next two years. It is not the Board members responsibility to clean up a developer’s mess.
This is not about balance between the developers and the lakes. Balance means that some level of damage can be done by the developers and must be accepted by the lakes. It should be about keeping the lakes whole, in their pre-development environment that made them so desirable in the first place.