Our Opinion: Seeking straight answers on stormwater

Clarification, not confrontation, is the goal of the Cole County Commission’s request to meet with state stormwater regulators.

As explained by county engineer Eric Landwehr, county compliance with federal stormwater guidelines is nothing new. The federal Environmental Protection Agency regulations are enforced through a Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) review.

The county’s three-member governing body expressed some frustration following Landwehr’s presentation this week. Included in Landwehr’s summary were DNR findings of inadequacy with the county’s stormwater program.

County commissioners’ frustrations focused primarily on questions of authority and specificity.

Presiding Commissioner Marc Ellinger questioned whether the county has the legal authority to adopt three ordinances recommended by DNR. The ordinances pertain to: illegal discharge; erosion and sediment control for construction sites; and post-construction runoff and stream buffering.

“We want to comply with the law, but I don’t think we have the authority to do some of these things because we have no county zoning and we are not a charter county.”

In addition, commissioners were exasperated that DNR focused more on what problems to avoid rather than on specific solutions.

“DNR says we have to come up with these ordinances,” Ellinger said. “They tell you what doesn’t work, but won’t say what to do if it doesn’t. We want a dead straight answer.”

We appreciate and understand the commissioners’ concerns.

DNR primarily is a regulatory agency, and regulations tend to focus on what is prohibited rather than what is permitted.

Stormwater compliance is not an inexpensive undertaking. Commissioners simply are asking whether they are authorized to act and, if so, what is most cost-effective method of compliance.

On those questions, they deserve dead straight answers.

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