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State Innovation Grants

EPA 2005-2006 State Innovation Grants Competition Pre-Proposals

Project title and location: Ohio Team Project: Balanced Growth and Environmental Protection

Applicant State Agency: Ohio EPA (lead) in partnership with Ohio Lake Erie Commission

Ohio EPA Contact:
Al Franks, Chief of Strategic Management
P.O. Box 1049 , Columbus, OH . 43216-1049
Phone: (614) 644-2782
Fax: (614) 644-3184
E-mail: al.franks@epa.state.oh.us

Ohio Lake Erie Commission Contact:
Edwin J. Hammett, Executive Director
One Maritime Plaza, 4 th Floor, Toledo, OH. 43604-1866
Phone: (419) 245-2514
Fax: (419) 245-2519
E-mail: edhammett@ameritech.net

State Agency Endorsement :

Joe Koncelik, Director of Ohio EPA has been consulted and supports this Pre-proposal to help implement the Lake Erie Balanced Growth Program through Ohio EPA’s environmental authorities. 

Summary of the Environmental Problem

Studies of watersheds consistently show a direct relationship between land use and water quality. The impacts of development on watersheds include: disruption of natural water balance; increased flood peaks; increased velocity of flows; stream bank erosion; habitat loss; groundwater competition/depletion; lower summer base flows; and increased delivery of sediments and nutrients to downstream water bodies.

Decisions related to development, such as zoning and building permits, are made at a local level, often without consideration of the impacts to the environment at a watershed level. For example, a particular permit may not take into account the cumulative effect of increasing amounts of impervious surfaces. Data consistently indicate that as more and more area within a watershed is developed with impervious surfaces, there will be degradation of water quality. In addition, decisions regarding development significantly impact the functioning of ecosystems and the quantity and quality of habitat for plant and animal species. The State of Ohio has an objective to work collaboratively with local governments to make informed decisions about land use that are protective of the Lake Erie watershed. The objective of this proposed State Innovation Grant project is to explore and develop how the State, through information sharing and incentive systems, can influence land use decision-making in ways that address an environmental need that conventional regulatory approaches cannot effectively address. This project may add a new tool to the environmental protection toolbox of Ohio and other states.

Background on the Balanced Growth Initiative

In 2000, the Ohio Lake Erie Commission (LEC) released the Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan which provides a comprehensive set of recommendations for the State of Ohio and its partners to improve the quality of Lake Erie as a resource. A significant conclusion of the plan was that land use trends in the basin are a major factor preventing the full restoration of the Lake. Consequently, the Plan recommended that LEC appoint a Balanced Growth Blue Ribbon Task Force to develop strategies to balance the protection of the Lake Erie watershed with continued economic growth. The Task Force recommended a program in which local governments can come together and voluntarily prepare a Watershed Balanced Growth Plan that delineates areas to direct future growth or redevelopment and areas to conserve through limiting development. Local officials would be asked to make these decisions, as they are responsible for land use regulation under Ohio law. They would then develop a local implementation strategy to ensure that the Watershed Balanced Growth Plans are carried out. Communities could be recognized for their effort with a Lake Erie Lighthouse Community award from the State. For this program to be successful, state government must support these local decisions through financial and regulatory incentives for both development and conservation.

Implementation of the program is well underway. An RFP for watershed pilot plans was released in April 2005 with grant awards scheduled for September. Measurements of change due to the Lake Erie Balanced Growth Program were developed at a workshop held in January 2005. twelve indicators were identified that will be used to track progress in three areas: implementation of Balanced Growth; land use change that is attributable to Balanced Growth; and change in watershed resource measurements attributable to land use change.

A state agency work group (Natural Resources, Agriculture, Health, Water Development Authority, Transportation, Development and Ohio EPA) has been formed (May 2004) to identify opportunities to support Balanced Growth. The state agencies on this group are currently reviewing their policies/programs to determine those that influence the location of land development and conservation. This State Innovation Grant will implement Ohio EPA’s role in providing incentives as the next step and allow the LEC to proceed with guidance/recognition.

In addition to identification and development of incentives, current Balanced Growth implementation includes the development of model regulations for coastal protection, development of decision support tools, and education of the general public and local officials about balanced growth, along with the conduct of pilot watershed balanced growth plans.

Related Efforts

There are numerous other activities that are being conducted by the LEC and others that are related to this Balanced Growth Program. Each piece fits into the overall strategy recommended by the Balanced Growth Task Force. These actions include the development of model regulations for coastal protection, conduct of pilot watershed balanced growth plans, education of the general public and local officials about balanced growth, and developing measurements to monitor change and the effectiveness of the Balanced Growth Program.

Though these activities are not funded with federal 104(b)(3) or matching funds and are not part of this grant submission,funding includes the LEC ($***), EcoCity Cleveland (an NGO) with a grant from the Joyce Foundation ($***), Ohio Water Development Authority ($***) for Pilot Watershed Projects, and Coastal Management (ODNR/NOAA- $***). A Roundtable Workshop was recently conducted to finalize the measurement and monitoring activity. This was accomplished with a USEPA grant to the Great Lakes Commission and funding provided by Cleveland State University for a total of approximately $30,000.

Overview of the Proposed Grant Project

Local communities have been asked to identify priority areas for development or conservation within a specific watershed. One key to success for this initiative will be for the state to provide information and tools to help local entities identify these areas. Another key will be to encourage collaboration with the State to make land use decisions consistent with the Watershed Balanced Growth Plans. The State can also encourage local entities to participate in the Balanced Growth Program through regulatory, outreach, and financial assistance programs. For example, it may be possible to provide regulatory flexibility as part of environmental permitting processes. The State may develop financial incentives, for example related to the State Revolving Loan Fund, to encourage adherence to Watershed Balanced Growth Plans.

Ohio ’s Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan also calls for a Lake Erie Lighthouse Award designation for communities that are practicing sound Balanced Growth principles. This can be used to reward communities wishing to show residents that they are making decisions that are good for the environment, and potentially attracting new families and businesses.

This proposed State Innovation Grant project focuses on exploration and development of incentives (flexibility in environmental permitting, and financial incentives) for Balanced Growth, including the Lake Erie Lighthouse Award. The leadership provided by the State and the incentive systems developed in this project will result in environmental performance on the part of Ohio local governments that goes beyond compliance to proactively protect water resources, critical ecosystems, and important habitat areas.

Successful outcomes of this project will be shared with other states for incorporation into their programs. Some states have relied upon growth management laws but most could benefit from a successful incentive based program such as Ohio’s Lake Erie Balanced Growth.

State Innovation Grant Work Elements

A. Evaluating Permit-related and Financial Incentives: The first element of this proposed State Innovation Grant project is to evaluate, develop and, in some cases pilot test, potential incentives for development and implementation of Watershed Balanced Growth Plans. Incentives will be evaluated from each of these general categories: Technical Assistance and Planning; Financial Incentives; and Incentives related to Permitting.

Allowing permit flexibility and potential watershed based permitting will be highlights of this effort. The key will be for Ohio’s environmental management agencies (primarily Ohio EPA) to identify permitting incentives to encourage local governments to participate. This will be the intersection between local land use planning and state environmental management, allowing better land use regulation and more efficient administration of environmental requirements.

Many programs will be examined for incentives for this State/local partnership. These programs may include: general permits; Section 208; storm water; solid waste; public drinking water source protection; groundwater protection, hazardous waste; Pollution Prevention; Section 404/401 Certification; isolated wetland permitting; TMDL’s; headwater protection; State Revolving Loan; air quality planning; and watershed action planning.

Opportunities for incentives will be evaluated related to these and potentially other Ohio EPA program areas. The opportunities for incentives will be evaluated based on how implement-able they are and how effective they could be in influencing the decisions or behaviors of local governmental units. EcoCity Cleveland (NGO), working in cooperation with the state agencies, will convene focus groups of private developers to review the inventory of policies and programs to assist in determining which programs and policies have the most impact on private development decisions.

Using these results, Ohio EPA will suggest a list of modifications to existing policies and programs and identify any barriers to change. This list will be subject to public review and comment. The final result will be presented for acceptance by the LEC. Ohio EPA will then i dentify specific rule, policy or legislative changes needed to implement the state incentives, develop them, and plan for potential adoption .

B. Using a n Environmental Management Systems Approach to Plan Operational Practices and Implementation Activities: For the Balanced Growth approach to be successful, communities working with Watershed Planning Partnerships will develop a Watershed Balanced Growth Plan identifying areas for development versus protection or preservation.

Much of the focus of Watershed Balanced Growth Plans will be on the location of development and assuring that the type of development is compatible with specific natural features. However, to more fully protect water quality and critical ecosystems, communities need to consider how their operational practices and implementation actions "blend" with land use plans and how they contribute to environmental protection. Communities and sub-regional agencies (Soil and Water Districts, Regional Planning, Regional Sewer and Water Districts, etc.) need to plan operational practices and implementation activities that are consistent with and which bring to life the Watershed Balanced Growth Plans. We anticipate they will develop their own Balanced Growth Implementation Strategy, which will complement and help implement the Watershed Balanced Growth Plan.

As part of the proposed State Innovation Grant project, Ohio EPA and the LEC will create proposed guidance for the development of local Balanced Growth Implementation Strategies which will focus on practices that affect ecosystems and water quality. Strategies will explore integrating such things as the existing storm water management program, drinking water source protection, watershed permitting, brownfields restoration and solid waste management planning into community comprehensive planning while supporting Balanced Growth.

An Environmental Management System ( EMS) methodology will be used in the development and execution of local Balanced Growth Implementation Strategies. This methodology is highly applicable for this purpose. In the development and implementation of the Strategy, communities would assess the most significant actions needed to bring the Watershed Balanced Growth Plan to life, and what operational practices (such as storm water management) need to be developed or aligned to support Balanced Growth goals and principles. Communities would then carry out an EMS-type cycle to achieve continuous implementation and continuous improvement: for Balanced Growth activities (objectives and action plans); carry out planned activities; check progress and review balanced growth indicators; and adjust efforts accordingly.

The local Balanced Growth Implementation Strategy will be a document addressing the continuous improvement and management of community Balanced Growth issues. The document would include acceptance of the Priority Development and Priority Conservation Areas developed through Watershed Balanced Growth Plans. Balanced Growth activities would reflect the State issued Best Local Land Use Practices document and would include adoption of model regulations (storm water management, riparian/wetland protection, meadow protection and other guidance areas). These local regulations would have to conform to previously developed, state-approved models that interrelate local land use regulations with state environmental regulations.

As the second element of this State Innovation Grant proposal, Ohio will develop a guidance document on development of Balanced Growth Implementation Strategies using an Environmental Management System methodology.

C. Planning a Recognition Program as an Incentive for Participating in the Balanced Growth Initiative, and Going Beyond Compliance to Protect Land and Water Resources:

Ohio ’s Lake Erie Protection & Restoration Plan calls for a Lake Erie Lighthouse Community designation to reward communities practicing sound Balanced Growth principles. The Lake Erie Lighthouse designation will be bestowed upon local units of government that protect the Lake Erie watershed and ecological resources through development and implementation of Watershed Balanced Growth Plans that meet established criteria. Communities that meet the Lake Erie Lighthouse criteria will achieve environmental performance beyond just compliance.

It is anticipated that the recognition provided by the State will be valuable to communities in the Lake Erie watershed. The recognition value of the designation can potentially be enhanced through steps such as: declaration of Lighthouse Community status by governor; public ceremony announcing declaration; Lighthouse Community logo to use on letterhead, road signs, etc.; and increased visibility as a partner with LEC, Ohio EPA and other agencies. Under the State Innovation Grant, the LEC and Ohio EPA will develop and document specific criteria for the Lake Erie Lighthouse designation and assess ways the award program can be structured so that the designation is of most value to local units of government -- the more desirable the award, the more it will be effective in encouraging environmentally-protective behaviors.


Specific outcomes and deliverables of this project include the following: Final list of Ohio EPA program and policy changes supporting Balanced Growth based on evaluations of potential permit-related and financial incentives; plan for implementation of Ohio EPA changes-- rule packages, policy changes; guidance document on development of Balanced Growth Implementation Strategies by local units of government; and Lake Erie Lighthouse community designation requirements.

Work Activities and Project Schedule

Ohio EPA and LEC request a 36-month grant project period. (*) Denotes completion in months after project start date.

  1. Ohio EPA reviews preliminary recommendations of State Incentives Workgroup, further evaluates potential incentives. Ohio EPA and the State Incentives Workgroup finalize preliminary recommendations. Ohio EPA forms internal workgroup to implement preliminary recommendations. (6 months*)
  2. Identify specific rule, policy or legislative changes needed to implement the state incentives identified in step 1. (9 months*)
  3. Draft proposed changes for approval by Director of Ohio EPA and recommendation to the LEC. (12 months*).
  4. LEC and Ohio EPA draft outline of Balanced Growth Implementation Strategy document in cooperation with the federal, state and local agencies and interests. (15 months*).
  5. LEC drafts requirements to be designated as a Lighthouse Award Community. (15 months*)
  6. LEC solicits public comments on Balanced Growth Implementation Strategy guidance document and requirements for Lighthouse Award. (18 months*)
  7. LEC will revise and adopt guidelines and requirements. (20 months*)
  8. Ohio EPA implements the agreed upon rule, policy or legislative changes. Final adoption of the agreed upon rule, policy or legislative changes may not be possible due to public comment, etc. (36 months*)

Program Criteria Review

  1. Targets Priority Environmental Issues –Linking Balanced Growth (smart growth) with environmental protection directly addresses both water quality and the cost of infrastructure through the use of new tools such as financial and permitting incentives and encouraging local governments to use an EMS-type approach with state support and assistance.
  2. Project Implementation Improves Environmental Results – The location of specific land uses has a major impact on the environment but is largely unaddressed at state or federal level, although there are significant impacts of state and federal decisions. Balanced Growth provides an innovative opportunity for incentive based influence on local land use decisions that are to be made by local governments working together at the watershed level.
  3. Measuring Improvements and Accountability - Measurements of change due to the Balanced Growth Program were selected and will be used to track progress in three areas: implementation of measures; land use change attributable to Balanced Growth; and change in watershed resource indicators. Work on baseline measurements will commence in 2005.
  4. Transferring Innovation- Smart Growth has previously been measured by whether a state has passed a planning law. These laws are not acceptable to many states and there has been some rollback where programs are in place. Ohio has already generated considerable out-of-state interest in Balanced Growth and has documented each step of the program. This interest is due to our voluntary incentive based approach which other states will consider emulating if successful. We are committed to continue to document and share our results and experiences.

[Budget Summary Removed by EPA]

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