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Cuyahoga Valley group seeks common ground on water issues

by Jeff Saunders    Reporter
Hudson Hub-Times, May 7, 2008

Brecksville -- Water flow does not respect political boundaries.

Even so, community and regional officials agree cooperation on controlling the quantity and quality of the area's water resources can be accomplished through coordination and planning.

Many of those officials met at an April 30 meeting of the Cuyahoga Valley Regional Council of Governments, a group that includes 19 communities, school districts and local park districts.

Area member communities include Bedford, Boston Heights, Boston Township, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson, Northfield Center, Richfield village and township, Sagamore Hills and Valley View.

"It's our experience that when communities get together, more gets done," said Dan Bogoevski, director of surface water in the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Northeast District Office in Twinsburg.

Kevin Skerl, an ecologist with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, said the park could be a "case study for cooperation." He explained the park encompasses 22 miles of the 112-mile Cuyahoga River, has 15 communities that cross park boundaries and 44 communities with an impact on streams that flow into the park.

Skerl said that activity such as construction and runoff from communities upstream often send pollutants and sediment from erosion downstream and increasing the likelihood of flooding.

"We have sediments floating down into the park in tributaries," said Skerl.

Jim White, executive director for the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization, said communities have more than aesthetic interest in protecting water quality and managing runoff.

He said state and federal regulations, particularly the U.S. EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, require communities take specific action, such as implementing storm water management plans.

"It makes a lot of sense to link water stewardship with NPDES to get more bang for the buck," said White.

The Cuyahoga River planning organization is a non-profit group made up of community groups, government officials, individuals and businesses concerned about the welfare of the Cuyahoga River and its tributaries.

White also said that it may be necessary for communities to find ways to go beyond what state and federal law says. For example, he said, when land is being developed, including property near creeks and rivers, one of the first things builders do is cut down all trees.

"The best operating streams in the Cuyahoga region are the ones that have a well-developed forest canopy," he said. "There are no regulations that require that."

Hudson Mayor William Currin said a good place for cooperation to start would be for the communities to share information. He said communities should let each other know about concerns regarding specific developments and how they are addressing those concerns. He also said members should trade notes on zoning regulations that affect flooding and stormwater issues.

"We could be woefully behind where our neighboring community is or our neighboring community could be woefully behind us," said Currin. "This would be so that no one is trying to reinvent the wheel."

Cuyahoga Valley National Park Superintendent John Debo said he thinks greater cooperation is becoming more likely.

"It's beginning to sink into the public consciousness, at the individual level, at the community level, at the level of society, that we need to become a greener society," he said. He added control of flooding and improving water quality will improve everyone's lives.

E-mail: jsaunders@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3169