FAIRBORN — Local land conservationists are encouraging city officials to consider asking three questions that could help save area wetlands from development.
Among the B-W Greenway Community Land Trust goals are preserving and promoting natural corridors between the Beaver Creek and Wenrick Wetlands, protecting ground and surface water, encouraging sustainable agriculture, and in this case particular case, preserving and enhance native plant, wildlife and aquatic habitats.
“B-W Greenway has stewardship responsibilities to our members, the community and the natural world,” said Bob Jurick, chair of the B-W Greenway Land Conservation Projects Team. “We’ve had people call us and ask why our perceived wetland is being destroyed or turned into a retention pond. Unfortunately there are no definitive inventories of wetlands in our area.”
The 1997 Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC) wetlands inventory shows 92 wetlands in the greenway, which includes only those where the owners allowed the properties to be examined. Many of these are not on the national or Ohio inventories that developers use.
“Decision bodies assume that OEPA (Ohio Environmental Protection Agency) is on top of the issue. That is only true if a developer obtains a permit from the US Army Corp of Engineers, who are the statutory administrators of the Clean Water Act,” Jurick said. “If a developer doesn’t obtain a permit there’s no oversight, and a wetland can be lost.”
Wetlands are important because they filter surface water as they recharge the natural aquifer. They also reduce flooding and are a critical habitat for many species. According to Jurick, there are three criteria for determining a wetland: hydric soils, wetland hydrology and wetland vegetation.
“Wetland hydrology varies due to the seasons…Wetland vegetation can be lost to invasive species. The only non-variable criteria is hydric soils,” he said.
Hydric soil is soil which is permanently or seasonally saturated by water, resulting in anaerobic conditions, as found in wetlands. Jurick and Jim Amon of the Beaver Creek Wetlands Association approached the Fairborn Planning Board a couple years ago with a proposal for saving local wetlands.
“We asked them to consider a process requiring a wetland determination if a property for proposed rezoning has hydric soils and if wetlands did exist, a wetland delineation be submitted as part of the platting design,” said Jurick. The planning board had several reservations and questions, one of which was would the change be a burden on developers.”
After consulting developer Greg Smith, Project Manager with Oberer Development, Jurick and Amon returned to the board.
“This time the general consensus was that the recommendation seemed okay, but they didn’t want Fairborn to be first,” Jurick said.
While they did not find any local jurisdictions willing to be the first to establish their proposed process, Jurick requested that Fairborn officials consider asking three simple questions when approached by developers.
“Please let staff on the planning board know that you will be asking if the site of a rezoning has hydric soils and if it does, you will be asking if it had a wetland determination,” he said. “And finally if a platting comes to you on a property that has a wetland, you will be asking if the proposed design includes delineations of any wetlands determined to be on the property.”
In 2013, two University of Dayton students from the sustainability class researched wetlands and other natural areas of Bath Township and their results were presented at a 2013 zoning workshop. Five more UD students completed the same research for Beavercreek Township this year. Their findings will be presented at the Dec. 5, 2014 workshop along with maps, a brochure with insert and a YouTube video, all available at www.bwgreenway.org/index_files/Page616.htm.
Amanda Crowe is editor of the Fairborn Daily Herald covering Fairborn, Yellow Springs, Enon and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Contact her by phone at 937-502-4532 or on Twitter @FairbornHerald.