Sensitive and Priority Areas

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1 Chapter 3 Sensitive and Priority Areas 3.1 Introduction U.S. EPA and IDEM policy require communities to place a priority on addressing combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges to sensitive areas. The IDEM guidance defines sensitive areas as waters impacted by CSO discharges which must be given the highest priority for CSO discharge elimination, relocation or control. Examples of sensitive areas include: Habitat for threatened or endangered species, Primary contact recreational areas such as beaches and other swimming areas, Drinking water source waters, and Outstanding State Resource Waters and Outstanding National Resource Waters For stream segments that are sensitive areas, the EPA Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) guidance states, the LTCP should give highest priority to the prohibition of new or significantly increased overflows (whether treated or untreated) to designated sensitive areas. If physically possible and economically achievable, existing overflows to sensitive areas should be eliminated or relocated unless elimination or relocation creates more environmental impact than continued discharge (with additional treatment necessary to meet water quality standards) to the sensitive area. Elkhart evaluated potential sensitive areas along both the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers as part of its 2000 Stream Reach Characterization and Evaluation Report (SRCER). This evaluation concluded there are no sensitive areas, as defined by IDEM, in the stream reaches receiving CSO discharges. Nevertheless, a second level of assessment was conducted to see if any priority areas exist within the CSO receiving streams which would warrant a higher level of CSO control than would be provided throughout the overall CSO system. As part of the priority area assessment, an Environmental Health and Safety Assessment was performed. That assessment focused on shoreline land use, habitat and accessibility adjacent to the CSO discharge points, and stream use and safety around the CSO discharge points. As a result of this assessment, each CSO received a priority ranking that was used during the developing of CSO control alternatives. In their 2004 comments on the LTCP, IDEM and U.S. EPA asked Elkhart to provide further analysis of potential sensitive areas. The agencies were interested in areas affected by City of Elkhart CSOs where full-body contact recreation or canoeing occurs and recreational areas downstream, such as the East Race kayaking course in South Bend and Lake Michigan. The agencies also asked Elkhart to do further analysis of a state 3-1

2 endangered species, the Greater Redhorse, in the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers. This chapter has been revised since 2002 to include further analysis of sensitive and/or priority areas on CSO-impacted waterways. The steps Elkhart used to identify sensitive and priority areas are outlined in Figure 3.1. Figure 3.1 Figure 3.1 Sensitive and Priority Area Identification Steps Sensitive and Priority Area Identification Steps Document all known sensitive areas and public access points along the receiving streams. Conduct field surveys of sensitive areas; apply Environmental & Safety Assessment Criteria to all CSO locations. Solicit public input. Map all CSOs and sensitive or priority areas. Include all identified CSOs in sensitive or priority areas in the control alternative evaluation. 3.2 Sensitive Area Identification To identify potential sensitive areas along the CSO receiving streams, Elkhart sought to document all known areas that could be considered sensitive based on IDEM s guidance. Three methods of documentation were used to identify and confirm sensitive locations. First, Elkhart submitted requests for information on threatened or endangered species, state outstanding resource waters, and public water supply intakes to the appropriate regulatory agencies. Second, the St. Joseph and Elkhart rivers were surveyed to identify full body contact recreational areas such as bathing beaches. Third, this information was compiled and presented to the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) at a public meeting in May During this public meeting, Elkhart sought input on sensitive locations, particularly with respect to areas where swimming occurs in the streams. This process resulted in the following conclusions relating to the four sensitive area criteria Habitat for Threatened or Endangered Species Over the past several years, the City of Elkhart s Aquatic Biologist has been actively sampling the fish communities of the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers and their major 3-2

3 tributaries. The results of these studies have provided valuable information on the aquatic health of these water bodies. These studies identified one freshwater fish species of concern in the St. Joseph and Elkhart River reaches through the City of Elkhart s urban areas, the Greater Redhorse (Moxostoma valenciennesi). According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), the Greater Redhorse is listed as a state endangered species. In 2005, Mr. Edward Hammer, an expert on biological criteria within the Water Quality Standards Branch at U.S. EPA Region 5 in Chicago evaluated the potential impact from CSOs to the Greater Redhorse. In an dated Dec. 22, 2005, Mr. Hammer stated that he was not aware of any water quality standards issue related to CSOs that would impact the Greater Redhorse: If the primary contaminant of concern is bacteria, then the issue would be human health. It does appear that the City plans to reduce what is probably a greater threat from CSOs to aquatic life, that being high flows. Simple logic tells us that if the Greater Redhorse are already prevalent then implementing a high level of CSO control should make the aquatic environment even more favorable for them. Elkhart data from fish surveys beginning in 1998 show moderate numbers and wide distribution of the Greater Redhorse throughout the receiving streams. Elkhart s Aquatic Biologist will continue to monitor fish populations in the river during LTCP implementation, including populations of the Greater Redhorse. The information received from the IDNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (see Appendix D) identified three other endangered or threatened species that may be present near Elkhart s stream segments. These species are the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) and the Blanding s turtle (Emydoidea blandingii). However, there are no records of bald eagle nests or Indiana bats in Elkhart County. According to IDNR records, a Blanding s turtle was observed in Cobus Creek in This species is a wetland species that prefers still water in marshes or prairie wetlands. It has not been documented in the St. Joseph or Elkhart rivers. Therefore, potential habitats for these species are not being impacted by CSO discharges. Even if they were, the high level of CSO control which is planned will minimize any such impact Primary Contact Recreational Areas The City of Elkhart has 24 public parks and greenways along the St. Joseph and Elkhart River reaches through the urban area, as shown in Figure 3.2 below. At no place along either river are there dedicated public or private beaches. During the May 2001 public meeting, the CAC and the general public were asked about recreational uses on CSOimpacted stream segments. Swimming in either river was not identified as a common recreational use. High Dive Park, 500 E. Beardsley Avenue, contains a small, shallow, side-stream lagoon fed by Christiana Creek from the north. CSO 14 discharges into this lagoon near High Dive Park. The lagoon is not used for swimming. The outlet from this lagoon flows back into Christiana Creek, downstream from an area where wading and swimming do occur in High Dive Park. Although CSO 14 effectively discharges downstream from the area where wading and swimming occur, Elkhart decided to treat this CSO as discharging to a sensitive area and to evaluate the elimination, relocation, or minimization of CSO 14 in its LTCP. This evaluation is described in Chapter 4, Alternatives Analysis. Downstream of Elkhart, the City of South Bend operates the East Race Waterway, a kayaking and rafting course fed by waters of the St. Joseph River. In a letter dated June 6, 3-3

4 2006, IDEM Assistant Commissioner Bruno Pigott and U.S. EPA Water Division Director Jo Lynn Traub said the agencies had determined that rafting and kayaking activities conducted in the East Race are primary contact recreation. The agencies required the cities of Elkhart, South Bend and Mishawaka to evaluate whether elimination or relocation of overflows affecting the East Race is physically possible and economically achievable, and whether providing treatment to meet water quality standards is feasible. Elkhart agreed to treat the East Race as a sensitive area, as described in CSO policy. Elkhart s analysis of its ability to eliminate, relocate or treat CSOs affecting the East Race is documented in Chapter 4, Alternatives Analysis, and Chapter 6, Financial Capability Analysis. Public access to the East Race is limited to Saturdays and Sundays during the months of June, July and August. The water is very swift and poses a safety hazard that requires certified lifeguards to be present when open to the general public. It is closed during heavy rain events and or when lightning is in the area. The City of South Bend also has offered to notify users of the East Race whenever sanitary sewage overflows into the river are occurring and that a high level of bacteria in the river is expected. This notification system will help ensure that on the few occasions that East Race users may use the Race when it is affected by CSO discharges, they are fully informed of the potential risks from sewage overflows and other wet weather discharges to the River. South Bend will use a management program to ensure that CSO discharges are factored into operational decisions regarding the use of the East Race. Figure 3.2 Redhorse Fish Habitat, Public Parks and Greenways N n.t.s I D P a r k N a m e 1 E E C 2 R i v e r G r e e n w a y 3 S t u d e b a k e r P k 4 A m e r i c a n P a r k 5 I s l a n d P a r k 6 B e a r d s l e y P a r k P u l a s k i P a r k 9 H i g h D i v e P a r k 1 0 H i g h D i v e P a r k 1 1 H i g h D i v e P a r k 1 2 F O P Y o u t h P a r k 1 3 L a n g l e P a r k 1 4 R i v e r G r e e n w a y 1 5 M c N a u g h t o n W e s t 1 6 M c N a u g h t o n E a s t 1 7 M a r t i n ' s L a n d i n g 1 8 M c C r e a r e y ' s P t t h F r n k l n G r n w y 2 0 J e f f. S t. B o a t L 2 1 B a k e r P a r k 2 2 B i c e n t e n n i a l P k 2 3 E d g e w a t e r P a r k 2 4 W a t e r f a l l P o r t a g R iv e r S eg m en ts w h e re G r ea t R ed h o rs e & R iv e r R ed h or s e F is h h av e b e en ob se rv e d C SO Locations Public Parks and R iver G reew ay Segm ents FI G U R E Drinking Water Source Waters The primary source of drinking water in northern Indiana is groundwater. Data on public water supplies in Elkhart County from IDEM show no surface water sources of drinking 3-4

5 water in the County. Thus, no areas were identified as sensitive drinking water source areas for this LTCP Outstanding State or National Resource Waters Neither the St. Joseph nor Elkhart Rivers are listed under state law or rule as outstanding state or national resource waters. Because the rivers are not so designated, they are not considered sensitive based on this criterion for the LTCP. 3.3 Environmental Health and Safety Assessment In addition to evaluating sensitive areas that meet the state and federal criteria, Elkhart developed a procedure to identify areas that show high probability for human contact with CSO-impacted waters and possible adverse effects on significant aquatic habitats. This procedure, called the Environmental Health and Safety Assessment, uses five criteria evaluated in the field for each discharge point. The evaluation process for each criterion and the resulting priority rankings are described below Environmental Health and Safety Assessment Criteria The five criteria used to evaluate each CSO location were: 1) shoreline accessibility to the CSO discharge point, 2) stream safety for full- or partial-body contact recreation, 3) land use adjacent to the CSO discharge point, 4) stream use around the discharge point, and 5) shoreline habitat for aquatic species near the discharge point. Each CSO received a score for each criterion, based on the definitions shown below Shoreline Accessibility to CSO Discharge Point The Shoreline Accessibility criterion looked at the ease with which a person could approach a CSO outfall from the shoreline and be exposed to the CSO discharge. The evaluation was independent of the type of land use around the CSO. A CSO outfall that is easily accessible may be along a cleared shoreline, with little to no slope down to the outfall. An example of an inaccessible outfall would be an outfall along a steep, highly vegetated bank. Less accessible CSOs score lower under this criterion. Definitions used to create scores for shoreline accessibility were: 5 = Easily accessible (open space, gentle slope, walkway) 3 = Approachable, but not fully accessible to discharge 1 = Inaccessible (high bank, overgrown vegetation) Stream Safety for Full or Partial Body Contact Recreation This criterion focuses on the physical characteristics of the water body within the vicinity of the CSO outfall. The intent is to assess how safe it is to be in the water around the CSO discharge point. This criterion assumes that the safer the stream segment, the more likely someone could be exposed to CSO impacted water. For example, a safe area may have a solid river bottom, slow moving water, and could be deep or shallow. A shallow area would support wading while a deep area could support swimming. An unsafe stretch of stream would involve stream flow at a high velocity, making it hazardous for swimming 3-5

6 or wading. A safe designation under this criterion results in a higher score for a CSO. Definitions used to score CSOs for stream physical safety were: 5 = Safe (depth, velocity, bottom substrate support use) 3 = Somewhat Safe (may have inadequate bottom substrate) 1 = Unsafe (depth, velocity, substrate do not support use) Land Use Adjacent to the CSO Discharge Point The City evaluated the land use surrounding each CSO outfall and classified it as public use, residential, or industrial/commercial. Public land uses such as parks, boat landings and schools promote the use of the water body more than commercial use. Thus, it is more likely that contact with the CSO-impacted water would occur near a park than adjacent to a factory. The location of each CSO and the public parks and greenways along the St. Joseph River and the Elkhart River are identified on Figure 3.2. CSOs located near land designated for public use receive a high score for this criterion. Definitions used to create scores for adjacent land use were: 5 = Public Use (park, boat landing, school) 3 = Residential, wooded/riparian 1 = Industrial/Commercial, Roadway Stream Use around the CSO Discharge Point This criterion focused on the common, frequent uses occurring in the stream around the CSO outfall. Uses were classified as full body contact recreation such as swimming, partial body contact recreation such as wading, and no bodily contact uses such as shoreline fishing. The classification for each CSO was based on input from Elkhart s Aquatic Biologist, long-time Elkhart residents, the CAC and the general public. Overall, the consensus was that swimming is not a common, frequent use of the affected water bodies over the majority of the stream segments. Where the river begins to slow down due to the backwater affects of the Twin Branch Dam in Mishawaka, swimming does become a more frequent use in the water body. This is reflected in the CSO scores for this criterion. The two CSOs near the City s wastewater treatment plant are in areas that begin to see the backwater affects. These CSOs were scored the highest for this criterion. U.S. EPA and IDEM have indicated they believe this area behind the Twin Branch Dam is a sensitive area. However, CSOs cannot be completely eliminated or relocated due to financial factors, as documented in Chapters 4 (Alternatives Analysis) and 6 (Financial Capability Analysis). U.S. EPA and IDEM have agreed that Chapters 4 and 6 provide the appropriate level of analysis for this potential sensitive area. Definitions used to create scores for stream use were: 5 = Full body contact recreation (swimming, water skiing) 3 = Partial body contact recreation (wading, fishing) 1 = No bodily contact uses (boating, shoreline fishing) 3-6

7 3.3.6 Shoreline Habitat for Aquatic Species near CSO Discharge Point This criterion relates to the protection of aquatic habitats. A natural, pristine habitat such as a wetland should be protected from CSO-impacted waters. The aquatic communities that live in these habitats are typically highly vulnerable to water pollutants. Shorelines that have been disturbed by the installation of seawalls provide poor habitats for aquatic species. Disturbed shoreline habitats received low scores under this criterion. Definitions used to create scores for aquatic habitat were: 5 = Natural, pristine habitats (wetland) 3 = Undisturbed, natural cover 1 = Disturbed (seawall, riprap) Scoring of Priority Areas Once all the field surveys were completed for the Environmental Health and Safety Assessment, the score for each criterion for each CSO location was entered into the matrix and a total score was calculated. The numerical sum for each CSO evaluated will fall between five and 25. For scores less than 15, the stream segment around the outfall was considered to be a low priority area. For CSOs with scores of 15, the stream segment was considered medium priority. For a score greater than 15, the CSO outfall was considered to be within a high priority area and it was assigned the Priority I for assessing control alternatives for this CSO. The results of the City s analysis are shown in Table 3.1 below. Table 3.1 Environmental Health and Safety Assessment Matrix Table 3.1 Environmental Health and Safety Assessment Matrix CSO Number Criteria Shoreline Accessibility Safety of Stream Land Use Stream Use Shoreline Habitat Total Score Priority I CSOs Priority II CSOs Priority III CSOs A matrix with preliminary scores was presented to the CAC at a public meeting in May After this meeting, scores were revised based on input from the CAC and the general public and a final matrix was prepared as shown in Table 3.1. This priority classification provided direction for this LTCP in evaluating CSO control alternatives to protect priority areas from CSO-impacted waters. The priority ranking for each CSO was compared to the estimated discharge frequency and volumes for the CSOs to establish Priority Areas for implementing CSO control measures. The resulting Priority Areas are shown on Figure 3.3. This figure shows the Priority I CSOs as gold triangles and Priority II CSOs as blue squares. Priority III CSOs are shown as pink circles. Priority Areas were then identified, using clusters of Priority I and II CSOs to identify each area of concern. The Priority Areas are numbered geographically (from west to east) and not in order of importance or concern. Figure 3-3 Map of CSO Priority Rankings and Priority Areas 3-7

8 3-8

9 3.4 Summary Based upon the analysis documented above, the City of Elkhart reached the following conclusions related to CSO discharges to sensitive or priority areas: Elkhart s CSO discharges do not impact the habitat of any threatened or endangered species. None of the waterways affected by Elkhart s CSO discharges have been designated as outstanding state or national resource waters by either Indiana or Michigan. Because drinking water supplies are drawn from groundwater sources in northern Indiana, there are no drinking water source waters affected by Elkhart s CSO discharges. Primary contact recreation occurs in the East Race Waterway downstream from Elkhart s CSOs, requiring Elkhart to consider it as a sensitive area. However, because the East Race is below the entire Elkhart system, it did not provide a basis to distinguish the level of control among Elkhart s CSO outfalls. South Bend will institute an East Race management protocol to address wet weather impacts to water quality in the race and to notify users of the race of such impacts. Where the river begins to slow down due to the backwater affects of the Twin Branch Dam in Mishawaka, swimming becomes a more frequent use in the St. Joseph River. U.S. EPA and IDEM have indicated they believe this area behind the Twin Branch Dam is a sensitive area. However, CSOs cannot be completely eliminated or relocated due to financial factors, as documented in Chapters 4 (Alternatives Analysis) and 6 (Financial Capability Analysis). CSO 14 near High Dive Park discharges below an area where wading and swimming occur. Despite discharging downstream of the area of use, Elkhart will treat this CSO as discharging to a sensitive area and evaluate the elimination/relocation or minimization of CSO 14 in its LTCP. Based on a review of environmental health and safety criteria, Elkhart identified seven outfalls that should receive a high priority for reducing the volume and frequency of CSOs. Ten outfalls were evaluated with a medium priority. Elkhart s evaluation of the CSO control alternatives focused on reducing the frequency and volume of discharges to the waterways in both sensitive and priority areas. Chapter 4 describes the City s evaluation of CSO control alternatives, including their ability to protect sensitive areas, reduce overflows to priority areas and meet other goals. 3-9

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