LONG TERM PROTECTION
After a local law is passed, your challenge is to keep it on the books.
- Maintain political support
- Continue to promote water resources protection in the community
- Evaluate how the law is working and publicize its successes
Celebrate your community’s water resources, and relate protection to the water that people see or experience. Keep up a public education effort that includes the benefits that protected wetlands, streams, and lakes provide for your community.
Monitor mitigation efforts to make sure they adequately address impacts on water resources, and evaluate whether the the law is being consistently enforced. Follow-up may also, unfortunately, mean that you have to be prepared for a lawsuit.
Gather data as the law is used
As the local law is put into practice, keep track of how it’s working:
- How long does it take for individuals to receive permits?
- How often are permits denied and why?
- What conditions are placed on permits?
- How much does it cost the municipality to implement the law?
- How much does it cost an applicant to receive a permit?
This information will help you make future changes to improve the law, and give you facts to counter misperceptions or complaints from those who oppose it.
Water resource laws may require mitigation: damage to a stream or wetland must be repaired or compensated.
Often misunderstood, mitigation is defined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA sec.1508.20), in order of preference, as:
1. Avoiding the impact altogether
2. Minimizing impacts
3. Repairing or restoring the affected environment
4. Reducing or eliminating the impact over time
5. Compensating for the impact (by replacing or providing substitute resources)
It’s often less expensive to avoid damage to aquatic or wetland ecosystems than to restore them once they’ve been degraded. Sometimes ecosystem conditions can’t be restored.
Mitigation is a useful tool but it requires evaluation and monitoring. A newly created wetland may look fine for a season and then die due to lack of water, the wrong soils, incorrect siting, or poor planning.
To maximize the chances for mitigation success:
- Require an approved mitigation plan before a site is disturbed or a permit is issued.
- Monitor the mitigation site for at least 3-5 years.
- Establish mitigation goal to restore ecosystem functions.
- Designate who will be responsible for repairing or replacing failed mitigation projects.
- Develop criteria for evaluating mitigation success.
- Recognize that some impacts cannot be mitigated. Take this into account when reviewing projects.