Originally created 07/15/06

Builders take cues from nature



NORTH AUGUSTA - The wetlands at River Golf Club, which filter contaminants out of the water, are natural mitigators of the harmful effects of stormwater runoff.

And city officials hope that builders will use low-impact development techniques to mimic Mother Nature's work in future construction.

About 75 people from Richmond and Aiken county attended a low-impact development workshop Friday.

"States are mandating that all small jurisdictions implement stormwater controls," Larry Coffman, the featured speaker at the seminar, said before his presentation.

Aiken County received the required permit to implement a $1.6 million stormwater management plan earlier this year. North Augusta has had a stormwater management program in place since 2002, and the city of Aiken started its program in 1993.

Tanya Strickland, a stormwater inspector for North Augusta, said low-impact development practices currently are being used in "bits and pieces" in the city. She said the pervious pavement parking lot for the Greeneway off of Martintown Road is an example of low-impact development.

"Low-impact development is really based on trying to replicate natural conditions," Mr. Coffman said.

Instead of trying to remove stormwater runoff from a property with drains and pipes, he said, the stormwater is infiltrated into the site. He said low-impact development, which is less expensive than traditional stormwater management, can be retrofitted for existing urban landscapes.

He said that generally 90 percent of the people in a residential community will buy into the program.

"The trick is for you, as the professionals, to design these things so that they're seamless," he told the audience.

He also said low-impact development practices can increase the number of lots in a development because the tracts do not have to compete for space with stormwater ponds.

"I'm not trying to restrict growth. ... It's up to you to determine how you want to grow," Mr. Coffman said.

Michele Harmon, an assistant professor in the University of South Carolina Aiken biology department who does stormwater research for North Augusta, said the workshop inspired her to look for ways to expand her research.

"I just wanted ideas for what other people are doing," she said. "This field of low-impact development has wider applications than I thought."

Harry Shealy, the president of Aiken County Open Land Trust, said he would like to hold a similar workshop in the city of Aiken.

"Land trusts don't have the land," he said. "Generally, landowners and developers have the land, and we have to work with them."

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.

ABOUT LOW-IMPACT DEVELOPMENT


What is it?


Low-impact development is a comprehensive land-planning approach that maintains and enhances pre-development water conditions in urban and developing watersheds.

Source: The Low Impact Development Center Inc., Beltsville, Md.




LOW IMPACT DEVELOPMENT PRACTICES:


- Rain gardens


- Strategic grading


- Turf depression


- Landscape island storage


- Alternative impervious surfaces


- Rain barrels


- Elimination of curbs and gutters


- Shoulder vegetation


- Green roofs

Source: Larry Coffman, low-impact development expert