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Iowa Gets Tough on Runnoff

Johnston, Iowa has a new erosion ordinance and the authority to issue stop-work orders.

Johnston, Iowa is among about 35 cities in the state initiating new stormwater runoff standards, according to Deb Schiel-Larson, a planner and landscape architect for Johnston. The city is working with the Iowa Storm Water Partnership and the Storm Water Education Program. Part of Schiel-Larson’s role is to get the word out about the problem of soil, debris, chemicals and other polluting substances from going down the storm sewers and into the waterways.

The new rules address all land runoff that drains into local rivers, streams and lakes. With more than 400 building permits issued during the last fiscal year in Johnston, runoff from construction sites can be significant. Inspection of construction, once a function of the Department of Natural Resources, is now up to city officials. The city has created an erosion ordinance and backed it up with the ability to issue stop-work orders. One city building inspector issued some 40 stop-work orders over the past 12 months, though far fewer recently.

Regency Homes of Des Moines reportedly spends about a million dollars each year to build silt fences, plant grass and place filter material on the ground at construction sites to mitigate erosion and clean up runoff. The future for development in Iowa may be fewer sideways and gutters, more porous paving materials and creation of retention ponds/wetlands at development sites to filter runoff.

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June 17, 2019, 8:38 am PDT

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