Editor's Comments: Hope Springs Eternal

May 15, 2021

Welcome to the Spring 2021 edition of Stormwater magazine. This is my favorite time of year. There's something inherently hopeful in watching nature awaken from its winter snooze. New life abounds: trees and flowers bloom, birds return, and critters of all shapes and sizes emerge from their hibernal sanctuaries.

Critters figure prominently into our feature story, as a matter of fact. Although not the cuddliest of nature's creatures, northern water snakes are some of the most common snakes in North America. Often confused with water moccasins, these non-venomous reptiles love to bask in the sun. When a Vermont landowner noticed several northern water snakes caught in plastic erosion control netting along a roadside, he placed a call to the Vermont Agency of Transportation — and that set VTrans off on a search for an erosion control option that would not only meet the agency's objectives but also allow wildlife to escape.

"VTrans was among the first state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to require biodegradable, plant-based fibers instead of plastic in their temporary erosion control products," writes Kristine Nemec. "At least 21 other DOTs have either phased out plastic erosion control products or would like to, according to a virtual peer exchange held in November 2020 on reducing plastics and other toxics from erosion control products." Read more about biodegradable erosion control options and findings from the peer exchange on page 10.

Continuing our theme of rebirth, on page 14, authors Josh Phillips and Cathy McCague discuss how a century-old irrigation ditch in the Denver Metro Area has been given a new life with its transformation into a vital piece of green infrastructure — and a world-class open space network.

"In a state long-plagued by water scarcity and a region that has doubled in population in the last thirty years," the authors write, "the Canal is proof that more can be done with less through deep collaboration, thoughtful planning and strong commitment."

Stormwater management programs take many different forms, tailored to the communities they serve. But all programs have one thing in common: they are regulated to ensure they meet permit requirements. On page 22, authors Trever Gauron and Rebecca Coulter discuss how self-audits can be a useful tool for revealing program deficiencies and allowing stormwater program managers an opportunity to address them before state regulators get involved.

"Communities that do not maintain their stormwater programs tend to generate greater EPA and state scrutiny, which garners negative publicity for their programs and their leadership," they write. "By evaluating stormwater programs before a state audit, municipalities ensure they meet the state’s requirements and expectations, avoiding fines and penalties while protecting their communities to the letter of the law."

Along Northern California's Feather River, decades of gold mining activity that began in the mid-1800s took a severe toll on the landscape. A massive channel diversion created to enable prospectors to more easily mine the riverbed altered the hydrology to such an extent that after heavy rains, a series of isolated ponds would be left between mounds of tailings, trapping native salmon and other fish. In the project profile on page 26, author Jeff Davis describes the Oroville Wildlife Area Flood Stage Reduction Project and its mission to safely divert floodwaters from the main channel and restore riparian and fish habitats.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Stormwater magazine and wish you a spring full of renewal and rejuvenation. Thanks for reading! SW

Published in Stormwater magazine, May 2021