We will develop a comprehensive strategy to improve water quality in Oklahoma City’s major watersheds, including standards against which development and management practices can be measured. Most of Oklahoma City’s water bodies are impaired and do not meet state or federal water quality standards, which increases costs and has negative impacts on recreation, public health, and fish and other aquatic species. We will take a comprehensive approach to address development standards and management practices to reverse water quality trends and bring water bodies into compliance with clean water standards. The approach will specify the water quality goals to be achieved in each watershed, identify the contributors to impaired water quality in each watershed, and utilize a combination of development standards, management practices, and targeted projects to achieve specified performance targets. Because water quality impairments arise from contamination at multiple scales, from individual properties to full watersheds, solutions must also be identified across scales.
We will make maximum use of green infrastructure, on-site storm water management, and other best practices to reduce the negative impact of floods and other significant events on water quality. Most waterway pollution in Oklahoma City results when rainwater or irrigation washes across lawns, agricultural areas, and impervious surfaces such as streets and parking lots. As it moves, it picks up fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, and microbes and deposits these contaminants into waterways. Water is naturally filtered when it is allowed to seep into the ground, when it moves slowly enough that sediment settles out, and when it is taken up by trees and plants. However, while much of the infrastructure constructed to move stormwater, such as channelization of waterways and rerouting or disconnection of streams, is efficient at moving water, it also increases the volume and velocity of runoff. This creates additional problems such as polluting waterways, diminishing biological features, and even flash flooding.
Alternative solutions, such as green infrastructure and on-site stormwater management, are designed to address both flood control and water quality. Examples include vegetation buffers adjacent to lakes and streams, maintenance of natural drainageways, permeable pavement, low-impact development, and landscape designs to slow water runoff from parking lots and other large expanses of pavement. These methods can be incentivized or regulated in order to achieve specified performance standards. We will maximize the use of these practices, which conserve natural features and work with, rather than against, the landscape’s natural drainage patterns.
We will make maximum productive use of water resources by promoting appropriate and safe use of recycled water. Currently, most water that is used for irrigation comes from the drinking water supply or from underground aquifers. In the summer and during times of drought, irrigation on large sites, such as golf courses, depletes the water supply. Some cities have effectively used reclaimed water for large-scale irrigation. Reclaimed water is former wastewater that is treated to remove solids and impurities. Oklahoma City has tested this on a limited basis and found it to be safe and effective at limiting the use of water resources that are best reserved for other purposes.
We will restrict development densities or require community wastewater treatment in areas without sanitary sewer service. Most of the city’s territory outside the urbanized area lacks sanitary sewer service. Feasible sewer extensions will provide service that supports urban density to some of this area. However, much of the area lacks the population density or has topographic characteristics that make sewer extensions unlikely in the foreseeable future. In these areas, developments typically use on-site treatment systems, usually septic systems, to manage wastewater. These practices require large minimum lot sizes and are sometimes inadvisable because of soil conditions. In these areas, new development should either be limited to very low densities or required to use integrated conservation design with a centralized treatment facility or other environmentally sensitive systems for wastewater treatment.
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Avoid under-grounding streams to the greatest extent possible. Where feasible, encourage the re-surfacing of buried streams. Limit the use of culverts or other structures that alter natural streams, and require designs that minimize impacts to stream health and function.
Using performance standards related to flow quantity, quality, and pattern, modify development regulations, codes, and policies to support the use of green infrastructure/low impact development techniques to mimic natural systems for developments within aquifer recharge zones with moderate or high vulnerability or in areas where streams and riparian areas have been channelized or developed (primarily in the Downtown, UH, and UM LUTAs). Low impact development techniques include but are not limited to:
- Onsite treating or filtering of stormwater contaminants.
- Discharging run-off as sheet-flow after passing through grassy or vegetated open space areas, rather than discharging run-off through concentrated outfalls.
- Creating attractive open space amenities that double as stormwater detention, retention, and / or filtering systems.
- Utilizing pervious pavement, pavers, or asphalt in appropriate locations (i.e. sidewalks, parking spaces, trails, patios, etc.).
- Utilizing planters (at grade or raised), vegetated landscape strips adjacent to roads and parking areas, and alternative curbing designs (allowing stormwater to easily move from impervious areas to pervious areas), to encourage stormwater infiltration and temporary detention.
- Rain Gardens
- Green streets and alleys
- Green roofs
- Rooftop collection
- Underground detention
- Increased tree canopy preservation/tree planting
- Land/open space conservation
- Cluster development
Establish development regulations to help protect Oklahoma City’s water resources through standards that:
- Require buffers, setbacks, and vegetation conservation requirements to protect riparian and littoral zones and filter waterborne pollutants from development activities and storm water runoff. Buffer widths should be based on water quality function and wildlife habitat needs.
- Encourage natural drainage systems and methods for onsite infiltration and onsite sediment retention.
- Require new developments to maintain or decrease the site’s pre-development runoff rate.
- Allow low-impact development design features such as pervious pavement, rain gardens, landscaped parkways, and alternative curbing designs.
- Reduce the amount of impervious surfaces allowed in buffer zones around Environmentally Sensitive Areas.
- Restore watershed features such as forest, wetlands, and natural stream channels.
Establish incentives such as a simplified permitting process, reduced application fees, and special recognition for projects that:
- Utilize best management practices or other low-impact development methods for storm water management.
- Bring buried streams to the surface and restore riparian habitat.
- Install bridge systems instead of culverts for stream crossings to help maintain the natural ecosystem associated with the stream.
Revise policies, codes and development regulations to reduce the risk of damage resulting from flooding and preserve water quality and stream related habitat by avoiding alterations to the 100-year floodplain (as depicted on the FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Map). Allow these areas to remain in their natural state to the greatest extent possible. Revised policies should allow positive alterations, such as restoration of natural riparian areas with appropriate vegetation.
Preserve wetlands in their natural state to the greatest extent possible to increase water quality, minimize quantity of runoff, and increase groundwater recharge. Maintain wetland headwaters and avoid the alteration of surface or subsurface drainage patterns that would eliminate, reduce, or severely alter the frequency and volume of water entering wetland areas.
Create a comprehensive wastewater program for areas not planned for service by the City’s sewer system. This includes:
- Locating and mapping all existing decentralized sewage treatment systems.
- Creating policies and regulations regarding septic system design, installation, maintenance, and testing.
- Producing guidelines for alternative wastewater treatment, such as community wastewater systems.
- Developing monitoring, testing, and inspection requirements and responsibilities.
- Partnering with State agencies and other entities.
Develop a comprehensive watershed management strategy that identifies programs, partnerships, actions, and incentives that the City and partners can take to protect the city’s water resources and aquatic areas. The strategy should address the following:
- Creation of a Stormwater Master Plan.
- Update to the City’s sediment control program and establishment of performance measures.
- Coordinated watershed restoration projects.
- Preparation and implementation of Small Watershed Action Plans (SWAPs) and participation in studies to identify needs and opportunities for stream restoration, wetland creation and restoration, and storm water management.
- Identification of opportunities to create wetlands to offset construction and other land development impacts.
- Identification and utilization of “receiving lands” that can absorb storm surge overflows.
- Public education on how to conserve water and minimize chemicals, pathogens, sediment, and nutrients in urban and rural watersheds.
- Acquisition and protection of greenways, river buffers and flood prone areas.
Evaluate the City’s stormwater detention/retention requirements, including the current fee-in-lieu of program, and compare to current best management practices. Based on findings, modify codes, policies and development regulations to update stormwater detention/retention requirements. These requirements should focus on:
- Reducing the risks of property damage due to flooding.
- Managing runoff rates and minimizing stream bank erosion by ensuring that post-development runoff rates do not exceed pre-development rates, even in areas where risks of flooding have historically been low.
- Maintaining surface water quality by managing the release of the first flush stormwater volume in order to encourage settling and filtering of particle and chemical pollutants before releasing water into adjacent water bodies.
Revise development regulations to require the following factors to be addressed in development and redevelopment proposals:
- Preservation of existing natural resources, such as wooded areas, habitat areas, and floodplains.
- Utilization of natural treatments and methods to stabilize or rehabilitate stream and river banks as a means to preserve downstream habitats.
- Integration of a variety of native or compatible non-native, non-invasive plant species.
- Mitigation of impacts of development on habitat, wildlife corridors, riparian and littoral areas, and water quality, through actions such as restoration or re-vegetation of disturbed natural areas and replacement of trees/habitat on-site or off-site.
- Management of invasive plant and animal species.
- Management and maintenance of natural areas, common areas and drainage areas.
- Impact on surface and groundwater supply.
- Impact on water quality caused by land uses and activities.
- Impacts on floodplains, riparian and littoral areas and wetlands and areas with significant landforms.
Revise the landscape ordinance to include the following:
- Define terms such as invasive species, exotic/non-native species, and native/indigenous species
- Require removal of invasive species from existing sites, and prohibit such species from being planted or maintained in new development.
- Provide a reference list of native plants and drought-tolerant plants.
- Provide incentives for using native and drought-tolerant plants and disincentives for using high-water plants and turf grass.
- Establish requirements for using design practices that minimize the need for supplemental irrigation.
Provide the public with resources, tools, and guidance to deal with environmental hazards, such as:
- Information about safe disposal options for household contaminants such as motor oils, paints, computers, televisions, batteries, etc.
- Information on environmental hazards, such as brownfield sites.
- Information about funds available to assist with environmental cleanups.
Establish development regulations that help improve air quality, including:
- Specifying construction controls that reduce airborne dust;
- Increasing landscaping and tree planting to absorb carbon dioxide and air pollutants; and
- Encouraging development patterns and densities that support alternative modes of transportation in the urban LUTAs.
Develop an enforcement mechanism for the City’s Building Energy Code. Develop a healthy building code to support construction of durable, health-promoting and energy efficient buildings that incorporate proven green development practices, locally-sourced and environmentally responsible materials, water conservation fixtures, innovative design and construction techniques, and low waste construction practices. Incentivize their use with shorter approval procedures, priority permits and inspections, and reduced fees.
Partner with agencies, non-profits, and private entities to:
- Implement a sustainable development online forum – an educational and networking resource that will inform the public about local opportunities and the benefits of sustainable development while increasing builder and developer participation.
- Educate citizens on energy and water conservation opportunities both at work and at home.
- Encourage appropriate re-use and reclamation of water in new development and redevelopment to reduce the reliance on potable water use.
- Provide detailed cost-benefit information about green building practices to encourage increased use of such practices in Oklahoma City.
- Reduce reliance on electricity produced by fossil fuel by encouraging the use of renewable energy sources in new development and redevelopment.
- Explore mechanisms (incentives, regulations, programs) to divert demolition debris from landfills and redirect to facilities that can reuse these materials.
- Establish a promotion/award program to showcase innovative development that utilizes low-impact development practices and energy-efficient building techniques / equipment, conserves riparian buffers, and extends greenway networks with hiking/biking trails.
Preserve overall landscape character and natural landforms (rolling hills, native vegetation, etc.) to the greatest extent possible.
Protect and preserve natural resources, by:
- Identifying and mapping valuable natural resources, such as, native prairies.
- Maintaining a comprehensive inventory and assessment of natural resources and critical habitats.
- Identifying opportunities to create an interconnected green infrastructure network throughout and beyond Oklahoma City’s municipal boundaries via existing trail and greenway projects, parks, stream corridors, and natural areas.
- Seeking the voluntary sale of land or dedication of conservation easements on private land that is identified as critical habitat or is necessary to link wildlife corridors.
- Pursuing protection of strategically identified natural areas by placing them in conservation easements or land banks, and reserving them for future use as open space and passive recreational areas.
- Managing invasive plant and animal species.
- Partnering with applicable State agencies and non-profit entities.
Strive to preserve natural open spaces, including native prairies, and re-plant native vegetation to take advantage of their drought tolerance and deep root structures that slow and adsorb stormwater runoff and reduce erosion by anchoring the soil.
Identify and protect critical habitats for state and federally listed threatened or endangered species.
Identify migratory birds and their nesting sites prior to construction. Protect migratory birds and their nesting sites throughout the construction process and refrain from construction near nesting sites until migratory birds are no longer actively nesting and have moved on from the site. Verify compliance with Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Establish strategies, procedures and policies that prevent degradation or loss of critical habitat and sensitive areas, such as Cross Timbers, upland forests, wetlands, wildlife corridors, groundwater recharge zones, and riparian areas. Protection methods should ensure that placement of lots, alignment of roads, and installation of structures and infrastructure minimize disturbance of the environmentally sensitive areas using tools such as:
- Directing development to appropriate locations;
- Greenbelt preservation;
- Assurance of no development in protected open space;
- Clustering / conservation subdivisions;
- Pervious surface treatments;
- Density transfers; and/or
- Conservation easements.
Ensure that strategies, procedures, and policies incorporate principles of connectivity, minimal fragmentation, representativeness, and heterogeneity.
Require that new development tie into the park and trail system by providing linkages to existing parks or dedicating new park land. Connect existing parks and neighborhoods to create a continuous system of open spaces, for example along stream corridors.
Enhance public park design standards to allow for public art and innovative design solutions regarding stormwater management, use of native vegetation, open space, and play areas.
Replace existing high-maintenance, high-water plant material with attractive native plants.