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Meeting the Phase 2 Storm Water Regulations Using a Watershed-Based Approach: A Practical Example

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An innovative watershed storm water regulatory framework developed as a part of the Rouge River National Wet Weather Demonstration Project (Rouge Project) in southeast Michigan was institutionalized in 1997 as a new statewide watershed-based, general storm water National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit (“General Permit”). Under United States Environmental Protection Agency's ( USEPAs) Regulatory Innovation program, the Michigan General Storm Water Permit was considered equivalent to the Phase II Storm Water Regulations, and USEPA concluded that this permit program could be used in lieu of permits that would otherwise be required by the federal NPDES Phase II Storm Water Regulations. The General Permit requires permitees to immediately initiate some activities such as illicit discharge elimination and to participate in watershed management planning for a self-determined subwatershed unit.

Within the Rouge River Watershed, 44 local units of government or agencies with storm water management responsibility have obtained a Certificate of Coverage under this voluntary, watershed-based, general storm water permit. Over the last 18 months, these public agencies have cooperatively developed seven subwatershed management plans encompassing the entire Rouge River Watershed. While the basic requirements for what must be in the watershed plan are detailed in the regulations, the permitees within a hydrologic or subwatershed unit are allowed considerable freedom in deciding upon their own priorities, remedial actions, and schedules.

The purpose of this paper is to report on how well the subwatershed management plans developed under the watershed-based Michigan Storm Water General Permit: 1) contribute to the overall effort to restore the impaired uses of the Rouge River, 2) meet the requirements of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Storm Water General Permit, and 3) satisfy the federal mandates contained in the USEPA's Phase II Storm Water Regulations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2001-01-01

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