The CMCOG Environmental Planning Program examines regional environmental issues such as air and water quality, open space preservation, sustainable energy and environmental justice. In addition to these activities, CMCOG staff also provides a number of other environmental planning activities related to GIS/Mapping, local government technical support, wetlands mitigation, hazard mitigation, and comprehensive planning.
208 Water Quality Planning
CMCOG is a designated region wide water quality planning agency, and is involved with regulatory compliance activities related to Section 208 of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The agency is responsible for developing and maintaining a 208 Regional Water Quality Management Plan. This plan compiles years of data from dozens of wastewater dischargers, and models long term water quality demands. The policies in this plan guide water quality treatment in the region.
CMCOG utilizes this plan to determine whether or not wastewater facility construction projects and NPDES/ND permits are consistent with the goals and policies established in this plan. Individuals or organizations interested in pursuing a project that has an effect on water quality must complete a 208 conformance review before DHEC will permit the project. To submit a request for 208 conformance, mail the completed 208 Certification Form, along with a general location map and a $265.00 processing fee to Central Midlands Council of Governments, 236 Stoneridge Drive, Columbia, SC 29210. Conformance review forms may also be e-mailed to Guillermo Espinosa.
Improving Water Quality with Green Infrastructure
CMCOG completed a Green Infrastructure (GI)/Low Impact Development (LID) Toolkit for improving water quality. This document provides a primer on water quality planning, an introduction to various GI/LID programs, policies and site specific techniques, a survey of case studies, and model language for comprehensive planning and conservation subdivisions. This project was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) through an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Grant.
The Central Midlands Council of Governments (CMCOG) is committed to preserving open space in the Central Midlands Region. Open space can be defined as follows:
An undeveloped piece of land adding ecological, scenic or recreational value to an area. Examples include forests, marshes and wildlife sanctuaries. Open spaces can also include: agriculture, retention/detention areas and floodways and floodplains. Open space may be publicly or privately owned and maintained.
The goal of such a plan is to create a network of protected lands within the region that will be a legacy for future generations. Given the rapid pace of development within the region, particularly in Lexington and Richland Counties, the time is now to identify places needing protection. The reasons for this include rare plant/wildlife species, scenic/historic landscapes, or any other natural features that a community would deem worthy of preservation.
CMCOG has developed plans and created coalitions that promote the preservation of the most ecologically sensitive lands while promoting sustainable development in areas that would have fewer impacts to surrounding ecosystems. A 2009 Joint Land Use Study (JLUS) looked into methods of protecting the mission of local military missions through the use of compatible land uses, and expanding local food sources that these missions may utilize to supply their bases. CMCOG is currently in the process of implementing the JLUS, forming a coalition of partners from commercial, federal, military, and local government entities that will carry out the recommendations of the study.
Green Infrastructure for Open Space Planning
The CMCOG is taking the “green infrastructure” approach to creating an open space preservation plan. Green infrastructure is defined as an interconnected network of open spaces that conserves natural ecosystems and functions, and provides associated benefits to human populations. The keys to green infrastructure preservation are twofold: 1) identifying areas worthy of preservation in advance of development; and 2) linking these areas together, since a network of open spaces functions better as an ecological whole, rather than as separate open space “islands.”
When linked together, these open spaces are able to function as an ecological whole, rather than as separate and unrelated parts. This enables them to better: 1) remove pollutants from the air; 2) carry and filter stormwater runoff; and 3) support diverse plant and wildlife species. A green infrastructure network normally consists of these three elements: hubs, linkages and sites.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines Environmental Justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” CMCOG is committed to achieving this goal for all communities within the Central Midlands region by following the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). CMCOG also works towards this end through implementation of the CMCOG/COATS Title VI plan which is based on the following principles of Environmental Justice:
- Avoiding, minimizing or mitigating disproportionately high and adverse health or environmental effects on minority and low-income populations;
- Ensuring full and fair participation by all potentially affected communities in the transportation decision-making process; and
- Preventing the denial, reduction or significant delay in the receipt of benefits by minority populations and low-income communities.
Natural hazards, as defined by FEMA, are a “source of harm or difficulty created by a meteorological, environmental, or geological event”. The Central Midlands region is affected by various natural events throughout every year. When these events impact or destroy life and/or property, they become natural hazards. Examples of natural hazards that impact the region with more frequency, or have a more significant impact on property and life, are flooding, tornadoes, hail, and droughts.
When a natural hazard impacts an area, emergency management authorities are in charge of providing disaster relief, and protecting the lives and property of residents. While disaster relief is a necessary part of managing natural hazards, it is a reactive measure meant to defend or rebuild after an event has already impacted an area. But if proactive measures are taken to limit the impact of these events, damage or loss may be significantly reduced, instead of just countered.
That is where hazard mitigation comes in, which is defined as an action that reduces or eliminates the impacts of natural hazards. Analyzing which hazards are more frequent in an area and preparing for these events accordingly leads to a more efficient response and a higher chance of protecting valuable life and assets.
CMCOG is the agency in charge of updating the Hazard Mitigation Plan for the Central Midlands region. This document details the historical extent and impact of natural hazards in the Midlands. As part of the planning process CMCOG works with jurisdictions to create activities that educate residents on natural hazards, and create actions that will reduce or eliminate the impact of these events.
The consultant team comprised of McCormick Taylor Inc. (MT), KCI, and Three Oaks Engineering, was selected by the Central Midlands Council of Governments (CMCOG) to develop a watershed-based plan (WBP) identifying and quantifying sources of bacteria pollution and providing project recommendations within the contributing 11 subwatersheds draining to the confluence of the Lower Saluda, Broad, and Congaree Rivers. The Three Rivers Watershed Area (also referenced as the 3RW Area throughout the document) consists of portions of several HUC-12 watersheds, specifically: Lower Twelvemile Creek, Outlet Saluda River, Upper Congaree River, Middle Congaree River, and Lower Congaree Creek.
This watershed encompasses 55.6 square miles of land in the heart of the Columbia metropolitan area and extends across seven different political jurisdictions consisting of two counties (Richland and Lexington), five municipalities (Columbia, West Columbia, Cayce, Town of Lexington, and Irmo), and eight Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) areas (SCDOT, Richland County, Lexington County, Columbia, West Columbia, Cayce, Town of Lexington, and Irmo). This WBP is developed to address key issues impacting natural resources and water quality within the watershed that are not currently under Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirements. The watershed faces many of the problems typically associated with increased urbanization and its associated stormwater impacts, including stream erosion, water quality degradation, and loss of natural resources. In addition to meeting the nine element requirements of the EPA’s WBP development guidance, the plan incorporates components that address climate change consideration and the protection of the public drinking water sources in the watershed (including intakes from the City of Columbia and City of West Columbia).