inner-placeholder


Upcoming Events

Environmental Planning

 

Ohio's Regional Councils play a strong role in improving the State's role by planning for better ways to protect our waters and air. Several coucils are tasked by the State to maintain water quality managment plans. Many of the councils also work on improving air quality with strategies to reduce pollutants, and inform citizens about their air quality.

Water Quality Planning

We can’t live without clean water. We need it for drinking, business and industry, agriculture, recreation, and waste disposal. We have to treat wastewater to protect public health and to comply with federal laws, and we need to ensure the viability of water resources for the future. We need storm water control to provide drainage while preventing flooding and erosion. Counties, cities, villages, townships and special districts provide these services. Often service area boundaries do not follow political boundaries, which may lead to inconsistent local regulations, or even service area conflicts between agencies.

Six regional councils maintain water quality management programs as designated by the State (in the Cleveland, Akron, Youngstown, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Toledo metropolitan areas) and work to foster cooperation in water, sewer, and storm water infrastructure for efficient and cost-effective service. These six agencies cover 24 of Ohio’s counties, where more than two-thirds of Ohioans live. We have a track record of planning for water and sewer services to support jobs and development. Building partnerships among local governments, the state, and the business community is how we do what we do.

Two functions common to the regional councils which do water quality planning are developing the Areawide Water Quality Management Plans and providing assistance to local governments/development community in storm water management. These programs help to stretch taxpayer dollars and to create economies of scale.

The Areawide Water Quality Management Plans are known as “208” Plans because they are mandated under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act. Congress chose a regional approach to prevent dupli­cation of services and redundant infrastructure and to encourage economies of scale. These 208 Plans provide information on existing waste­water systems at the regional level, and identify infra­structure needs for the next 20 years. They serve as a plan under which jurisdictions provide sewerage service in specific areas. They are also important for local jurisdic­tions because they provide regional support for grants to improve sewerage facilities.

The consequences of inadequate or outdated 208 planning can be dire to state and regional development. The Ohio Revised Code requires the Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to deny wastewater permits-to-install and pollution discharge permits if there is a conflict with adopted 208 Plans. Such conflicts can stop development in its tracks unless updates and amendments to the 208 Plans are prepared by the state and the regional councils.

Such updating and conflict resolution work is not without its cost, yet federal pass- through funding for this purpose has dwindled dramatically, from a level supporting well- staffed water programs in the 1970s to supporting less than one person for this work at each regional council in 2005. Unless funding for 208 areawide planning is stabilized so that updates and amendments can be undertaken consistently, the state and regional councils can probably expect more litigation of a type that has already occurred in Ohio.

Storm water management presents additional challenges to local and regional development. In 2003, new and complex federal EPA regulations took effect that require many cities, counties, townships, and agencies (notably the Ohio Department of Transportation) to control pollution caused by storm runoff. The regional councils work with local jurisdictions on a watershed basis, and provide a forum for sharing resources in meeting permit requirements. In watershed planning, the regional councils have a long history of working with the soil and water conservation districts and Ohio Department of Natural Resources to coordinate with the agricultural community in Ohio. Because of watershed planning, no one group - communities, businesses, or farmers - will bear the entire burden of pollution reduction alone.

With so much at stake for Ohio’s waterways and aquifers, and their essential role in our economy, the need for a partnership between the state and the 208 planning agencies has never been greater, nor has the need for stable funding.

Air Quality Planning

The air we breathe and the water we use are integral to life. Many of Ohio’s regional councils have air quality programs and water quality programs which take proactive measures to help Ohio meet the standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

It is required by the Clean Air Act, and its subsequent amendments, that Ohio has a plan (State Implementation Plan) for attaining and maintaining air quality standards. Each of the OARC members is responsible for recommending elements of their region’s portion of the SIP. Since vehicle emissions are still the largest contributor to air pollution, the OARC members responsible for developing their region’s Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and their short range plan, known as the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) address this issue accordingly. Transportation projects included in these plans must “conform” to air quality guidelines and not cause or contribute to a violation of national air quality standards. Members regularly evaluate the effect vehicle emissions have on their local transportation plans by performing “conformity analysis” to make sure proposed transportation projects comply.

Many of the OARC members actively promote the alternative transportation options to their region’s residents. Alternatives such as biking, ridesharing, taking transit or walking all positively impact the state’s air quality. Each of these “active” modes of transportation enhance residents’ mobility options while reducing air pollution.

Several OARC councils located in air quality non-attainment areas provide transportation related air quality data to Ohio EPA and provide valuable assistance to the state by working with local communities to develop appropriate strategies to achieve and maintain U.S. EPA air quality standards. Meeting federal air quality standards has important economic impacts to our communities, regions and state. In addition, seven OARC councils also provide daily air quality forecasting and notify the public when air pollution levels are expected to be unhealthy.