by Max Brantley
It's technical stuff, but those of you who care about clean water in Central Arkansas should continue reading on the jump. It's an explanation from the citizens group working for land use rules in the Lake Maumelle watershed about the shortcomings of the proposal to be considered by the Pulaski County Planning Board today.
In short: The plan has been rewritten by Deltic Timber (the Chenal Valley developer that owns most of the land in the watershed) to allow it to build five times more houses in the watershed than an original compromise plan would have allowed. And it uses measurements for potential pollution that aren't based on the specific types of soil and terrain present in the Lake Maumelle area, but on generic national standards. A more specific study is necessary about a water-safe level of development in the area. It might even prove to be less than the original plan neutered by developers' money.
From Barry Haas
Spokesperson, Citizens Protecting Lake Maumelle watershed
Bottom line, the current October 4 draft Lake Maumelle Zoning Code would allow more than 5 times as many new houses in just the Pulaski Co. portion of the watershed than the Watershed Management Plan contemplated in the entire 3-county watershed. Think about that!
At the October 13 Central Arkansas Water Commission meeting Citizens Protecting Maumelle Watershed (CPMW) released our analysis of how many new houses can be built in just the Pulaski Co. portion of the Lake Maumelle watershed:
6,784 2 houses/acre possible in the Village District (3,392 acres x 2 houses/acre)
16,942 2 houses/acre possible in 40% of the Low Impact District (8,471 acres x 2 houses/acre)
12,707 1 house/acre possible in 60% of the Low Impact District (12,707 acres x 1 house/acre)
36,433 Total potential new houses in Low Impact & Village Districts combined
The above totals do not take into account even more houses that would be allowed (1) if developers used the Site Evaluation Tool (more on the SET below) instead of 1-acre minimum lots on 12,707 developable acres in the Low Impact District or (2) if developers took advantage of a 10% increased density allowance for pumping wastewater outside the watershed.
By comparison, the Watershed Management Plan concluded only 6,000- 7,000 new houses would be allowed in the entire watershed including Pulaski, Perry, and Saline counties. Our calculation of the number of new houses allowed by the October 4 draft Lake Maumelle Zoning Code remains unchallenged by either Pulaski Co. officials or Deltic Timber.
Please note that the 3,392 acres figure for the Village District and 21,178 acres figure for the Low Impact District came from the Pulaski County Planning Department. The density, or houses per acre, are taken from the October 4 draft Lake Maumelle Zoning Code. The densities are from Table 2 Village District Dimensional Standards (page 9 of the Zoning Code), Table 3, Column B, Low Impact Planned Residential District Dimensional Standards (page 10), and Table 4 Density & Open Space Requirements in Low Impact Planned Residential District (page 11).
As noted above, the Site Evaluation Tool, or SET, option may allow even higher densities on 60% of the 21,178 developable acres in the Low Impact District using Best Management Practices (BMPs). BMPs are okay in theory, but often fail to perform as expected over the years. We don't want our drinking water quality to have to rely on BMPs which offer less protection in practice than in theory.
One other important fact- the Site Evaluation Tool, or SET, is an Excel spread sheet loaded with a mathematical equation for each variable like impervious area, etc. The mathematical equation for nutrient loading for BMPs comes from a national database which is generic in nature. Tetra Tech wanted the BMPs tested on Lake Maumelle type soil, forest floor, topographies, etc. so the equations in the SET would be particular to Lake Maumelle. Those "pilot projects" have never been done and to this day the SET remains unproven. In our opinion that's not good enough to guarantee the protection of a high quality public drinking water supply for 400,000 central Arkansans. We want the SET to be a reliable and useful tool, but we don't know if it is given the lack of verification.
The question is would the amount of pollutants, particularly phosphorous, coming off of developed land match what the scientific modeling equations in the SET indicate? Or would they exceed the SET maximums, requiring even fewer new houses?