The Science Is Undeniable!

The science is easy to understand and long-proven.

“The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

“With a few exceptions, the settlement pattern south of the Broad River has been comprised of conventional suburban sprawl: single-use, single-family detached subdivisions, strip-commercial, and auto-dominated thoroughfares which brings with it a high percentage of impervious surface.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

If the greater Bluffton area is developed according to the approvals as they currently exist, impervious surface will exceed 20% in the May River watershed and edible May River oysters will be a thing of the past.” (Coastal Conservation League)

We are already over 10% and we add to the problem nearly every day. We can continue to grow, but we must conform to the simple science above.

“Over the past (two) decade(s), various stormwater management techniques have been employed in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff caused by impervious surface without altering the conventional suburban settlement pattern. These techniques include, but are not limited to: stormwater management ordinances, Best Management Practices, devices at the end of outfalls, and maintenance and repair of stormwater retention ponds. However, the current inventory of on-site safeguards does not allow us to ignore the ten-percent rule. The only aquatic systems that will retain the full range of species and ecological functions will be those where less than ten percent of the watershed is impervious.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000)

Septic Systems Are Only A Small Part Of The May River Problem

About a decade ago, as part of an environmental restoration grant application, about 500 homes near the river were reported to have septic tanks. That number has not changed significantly in the last ten years, in part because most home construction since then have been connected to sewer systems rather than septic tanks.

Yet, we have an increasingly damaging problem with pollution entering the May River.

“The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

While efforts to provide sanitary sewers as broadly as possible are encouraging, these efforts can also divert attention from the leading cause of polluted runoff – poor planning and inappropriate development patterns leading to sprawl.

Similarly, the limited focus of current testing is hindering our monitoring efforts. Testing that is infrequent or that is restricted to only fecal coliform provides little information about safety risks and long term pollution trends. Because of these testing limits, we actually don’t know how safe it is to swim in the headwaters of the May River. Per the Coastal Conservation League, “if the greater Bluffton area is developed according to the approvals as they currently exist, impervious surface will exceed 20% in the May River watershed and edible May River oysters will be a thing of the past.”

So, while the removal of septic tanks is a small part of the solution, it is not, in and of itself, the total solution. We need to focus on smarter land use. Without correcting our problems with suburban sprawl, we will not succeed.

Save The May River

Recent decades of development have brought an influx of impervious surfaces, such as parking lots and roads. Now that impervious surfaces cover more than 10 percent of our watershed area, it is a widely held scientific fact that the water quality within has declined. Poor water quality leads to medical illness in humans and decimates oysters, fish and other marine life.

With a few exceptions, the settlement pattern south of the Broad River has been comprised of conventional suburban sprawl: single-use, single-family detached subdivisions, strip-commercial, and auto-dominated thoroughfares which brings with it a high percentage of impervious surface. The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land-cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers. The impacts of impervious surface are exponential: a one-acre parking lot produces 16 times the volume of runoff that comes from a one-acre meadow (Schueller & Holland, 2000). Therefore, developing under a conventional suburban sprawl settlement pattern guarantees enormous stormwater volumes while amplifying its negative impacts on our waterways.

“The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

Moreover, the streams, creeks, marshes and rivers surrounded by filled and impervious watersheds are less diverse, less stable, and less productive than those in natural watersheds. (Schueller & Holland, 2000) Streams in watersheds with more than ten percent hard surfaces become physically unstable, causing erosion and sedimentation, (Booth, 1991; Booth & Reinelt, 1993) and habitat quality falls below the level necessary to sustain a broad diversity of aquatic life. (Booth, Booth &R; Shaver et al., 1995) In sum, a watershed’s diversity, stability and quality become increasingly compromised as percentages of impervious surface increase. As a general rule, a ten-percent [impervious surface] threshold establishes an empirical point beyond which ecosystem function, in general, declines because of individual and cumulative stresses. (Beach, 2002) Studies specifically focusing on coastal estuaries have confirmed that general degradation begins at the ten-percent impervious threshold. (Taylor, 1993) There is an indisputable positive relationship between the traditional development pattern (compact, mixed-use, traditional neighborhood development) and its minimized impervious surface that ultimately results in greater water quality.

May River Science Is Undeniable!

The science is easy to understand and long-proven.

“The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

“With a few exceptions, the settlement pattern south of the Broad River has been comprised of conventional suburban sprawl: single-use, single-family detached subdivisions, strip-commercial, and auto-dominated thoroughfares which brings with it a high percentage of impervious surface.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

If the greater Bluffton area is developed according to the approvals as they currently exist, impervious surface will exceed 20% in the May River watershed and edible May River oysters will be a thing of the past.” (Coastal Conservation League)

We are already over 10% and we add to the problem nearly every day. We can continue to grow, but we must conform to the simple science above.

“Over the past (two) decade(s), various stormwater management techniques have been employed in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff caused by impervious surface without altering the conventional suburban settlement pattern. These techniques include, but are not limited to: stormwater management ordinances, Best Management Practices, devices at the end of outfalls, and maintenance and repair of stormwater retention ponds. However, the current inventory of on-site safeguards does not allow us to ignore the ten-percent rule. The only aquatic systems that will retain the full range of species and ecological functions will be those where less than ten percent of the watershed is impervious.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000)

In The Beginning

In the beginning there was Sun City Hilton Head (located nowhere near Hilton Head Island). Sun City made of a lot of people very angry and was largely considered a bad idea. And in the later parts of the 1900’s Beaufort County had a lot of ideas – most of them bad. (sans the comp plan that the Town of Bluffton decimated, but that’s a story for another day).

And in that moment, where the Town of Bluffton made its revenue by way of an illegal speed-trap and kickbacks thereof from said “speeding tickets that never happened”, we devised a plan – a plan of men … and mice … and manifest destiny. Bluffton’s brain-trust called to action a new committee – the Development Agreement Negotiating Committee or DANC for short. This great new committee entrusted within itself the ability to negotiate agreements with developers as it tried to control the destiny of greater Bluffton. With these new magical powers and the spin-doctoring marketing-genius of folks who made pottery and punch cards they negotiated – and won a few, but mostly lost. The odds were not in their favor.

Bluffton’s best came to meetings with developers with reams of paper and plans – and models even. Developers sent guys who showed up with a pen – as the guys needed to entertain themselves twirling said pen (#TrueStory) as they pushed over the bumpkins not paying for things like roads and schools.

(*sidenote – paying for schools was the responsibility of the county so it didn’t seem to bother Bluffton folks too much that we didn’t plan well for the schools we would need,  and Beaufort County repaid the favor by building developments in the intended pathways of major thoroughfares – so we are still working thru those issues. (someday we’ll tell you the story of the crooked parkway – but we digress)

Back then South Carolina was on the very wrong end of many lists – income, maternal health, diabetes, education and so on – and since then we have moved up most of those lists at least a spot or 3. Hey, it’s South Carolina – Thank God for Mississippi.

Bluffton’s prospects were extremely bright – we just didn’t kinda get it as we set out to make … jobs – and to make sure the efffed up county didn’t efff things up before we could eff things up.

We swore we did it to save the May River – so that was one of the first things to go to fecal coli form.

And as we went we annexed everything we could,  and it looked for a minute like our manifest destiny might take us all the way to the Broad River … but, alas, May River Pollution turned public opinion against us – so we got stopped. Nothing like a good annexation – oh well.

We knew full well that commercial was profitable (Annex the Kroegar, Annex the Kroegar – that’s magic), rich neighborhoods weren’t too bad (let’s point the crooked parkway right at Hampton Hall) and crap-box cookie-cutter neighborhoods on 1/4 acre lots lost money – so we built lots of those. But, nice people live there – so all good. Welcome to Bluffton my good neghibors.

Today, Bluffton is all that it can be as we make ready to become like Nassau County Long Island – Home of lots of little overpriced house, some nice homes, beautiful nature kinda-destroyed and the impending all-encompassing crippling fear that sometime today I may have to take a left turn where there is no streetlight.

It could be worse.

Saving The May River

About a decade ago, as part of an environmental restoration grant application, about 500 homes near the river were reported to have septic tanks. That number has not changed significantly in the last ten years, in part because most home construction since then have been connected to sewer systems rather than septic tanks.

Yet, we have an increasingly damaging problem with pollution entering the May River.

“The clearing of land for sprawling suburban development is directly linked to the impaired waterways because without enough natural land cover left intact to serve its filtering function, stormwater carries sediment and pollutants across impervious surfaces and directly into the rivers.” (Schueller & Holland, 2000).

While efforts to provide sanitary sewers as broadly as possible are encouraging, these efforts can also divert attention from the leading cause of polluted runoff – poor planning and inappropriate development patterns leading to sprawl.

Similarly, the limited focus of current testing is hindering our monitoring efforts. Testing that is infrequent or that is restricted to only fecal coliform provides little information about safety risks and long term pollution trends. Because of these testing limits, we actually don’t know how safe it is to swim in the headwaters of the May River. Per the Coastal Conservation League, “if the greater Bluffton area is developed according to the approvals as they currently exist, impervious surface will exceed 20% in the May River watershed and edible May River oysters will be a thing of the past.”

So, while the removal of septic tanks is a small part of the solution, it is not, in and of itself, the total solution. We need to focus on smarter land use. Without correcting our problems with suburban sprawl, we will not succeed.