Two years ago, Bowling Green city commissioners approved a rezoning for the 137-lot, single-family home River’s Landing Edge subdivision. The development site stretches across nearly 61 acres from McFadin Station Street to Interstate 65, and borders a wetland, streams and the Barren River.
Starting last year, River’s Landing Edge received violations from four separate agencies for violating the Clean Water Act, the Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit and several local permitting processes.
In the various violation documents, the River’s Landing Edge owner, engineer and two contractors are listed as Mark Williams, Arnold Consulting Engineering Services and Stewart Richey and S&R Excavation, respectively.
On Oct. 16, the Bowling Green Public Works Department issued the first citation to S&R Excavation, an excavating contractor in Bowling Green, for not using “best management practices” at the development.
“In summary, I observed zero functioning erosion prevention or sediment best management practices during the inspection and observed the sediment laden runoff from the entire disturbed area draining freely to the Barren River, ephemeral stream and wetlands, and excavation occurring in the ephemeral stream and wetlands,” the citation reads.
Stormwater runoff affects streams in several ways. It reduces streambank stability, increases channel width and alters the natural stream hydrology, leading to heavier flows in shorter periods of time, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Construction sites are a common contributor to erosion, sediment and pollutant runoff. To level the ground, developers often clear, grade, excavate or add fill materials at construction sites to level the ground for roads and houses. This exposes the soil to weather and then erosion – which can end up in nearby water bodies. There are “best management practices” to reduce these environmental impacts.
At the southern boundary of the River’s Landing Edge site, drainage entered the Barren River. At the western site boundary, there were no measures to prevent sediment-laden runoff from discharging into the wetland area. There was also an excavated ditch oriented to drain to this same, fragile area.
“This is the most complex site that I’ve been aware of in Bowling Green since I’ve been here,” from a regulatory perspective, said Matt Powell, environmental manager for the city of Bowling Green. “There are so many different ways they are in violation, and there are so many different programs they are subject to.”
The city issued a $1,000 fine, and ordered, through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the developers to restore the ditch draining into the wetlands and select sediment control best management practices to safeguard the boundaries of the project.
On Oct. 29, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, or USACE, issued a cease and desist for violating the Clean Water Act, harming the wetland and allowing dirt, rock and treetops to enter streams that connect to the Barren River.
“Whenever you have a cease and desist, you stop doing work in the Waters of the U.S.,” said Todd Hagman, a biologist at the USACE Louisville District. “There was a lot of sediment getting into the Barren River. They had excavated a channel within a wetland, and sidecasted the material there. In order to do something like that, you’re supposed to have a permit in place. They did not.”
Wetlands filter excess nutrients and sedimentation, and provide habitat for local wildlife like birds and amphibians.
“The wetlands provide important functions to our aquatic system,” Hagman said. “The impacts to the wetlands were fairly small in nature. My main concern was the stormwater impacts.”
The Kentucky Division of Water also inspected the sites in October and March, which resulted in enforcement action, according to Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet spokesman John Mura.
In November, the River’s Landing Edge developers wrote to the USACE that they would voluntarily restore impacts to the wetland, and submitted an initial plan in December. The USACE requested more information, and this process bounced back and forth for several months.
On March 20, the City-County Planning Commission issued a stop work order and notice of violation to the owner, engineer and Stewart Richey for failing to meet the Kentucky Pollutant Discharge Elimination System construction general permit requirement and beginning construction without approval from the City-County Planning Commission or a proper Site Work Permit.
“The property eventually came into compliance with our local regulations and the project was allowed to proceed with construction. This is separate from the USACE issues of which we have no jurisdiction,” Ben Peterson, the executive director of the City-County Planning Commission, said in an email.
The USACE officially accepted a wetland restoration plan April 13. The restoration was supposed to be completed “as soon as possible,” but there wasn’t a specific timeline. The monitoring reports are due at the end of the calendar year, according to Hagman, who plans to inspect the site again this month.
To restore the wetland, the developers will need to replace the material that they excavated from a ditch, then “the natural hydrology and wetland vegetation will basically heal itself over time,” Hagman said.
The developers will also need to move about 100,000 cubic yards of fill from the floodplain to meet the requirements of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood plain permit. This could take weeks or months, and thousands of truckloads, according to Powell.
The developers have completed the installation of some best management practices, including a silt fence, sediment basins and rock check dams, to treat runoff into nearby waters.
The city submitted a report to state and federal agencies last month, and continues to visit the site for inspections. Chad Doughty, from the Public Works Department, visited the site earlier this month. He reported he did not observe the initiation or completion of any wetland restoration work.
This wetland restoration, as well as the floodplain permit work, will have to happen before the developers are allowed to submit the development for acceptance by the city. The developers currently only have the permits to finish streets and utilities.
“It will become a stop work order by default,” Powell said.
Rodney Rogers, the president of Stewart Richey, said his company is doing the “earth work” and installing the utilities at the River’s Landing Edge subdivision.
“We’re moving the dirt around to level it up for the streets to be put in and the lots to be built up,” Rogers said.
Following the stop work order in the spring, Rogers said he isn’t aware of any current issues. “The work is progressing on,” he said.
Williams, the owner of River’s Landing Edge and founder of M.A. Williams Properties, did not respond to a request for comment.