Lax city oversight prompted the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to hold up land-disturbance permits for 23 construction projects in the Hinkson Creek watershed.
The DNR on Tuesday, however, granted permits to 16 of those 23 projects, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter in south Columbia, that had been on hold because the state feared they could further pollute Hinkson Creek. Five other projects, including a Bass Pro Shop planned for Vandiver Drive and a new student commons for Columbia College, remained on hold.
The DNR is blaming the city for the delays and is questioning its storm-water policies. In a news release issued Monday, DNR spokeswoman Connie Patterson said the permits initially were held up largely because the city has neglected its responsibility to monitor storm-water runoff in the Hinkson Creek watershed by failing to be “sufficiently diligent in scrutinizing” construction sites.
Patterson said the state agency will review local construction projects until the city is able to correct “deficiencies” in its storm-water management process. The DNR is considering placing new standards on developments in the Hinkson Creek watershed, she said, adding that those standards would be worked out in meetings with the city.
The state’s goal is to not delay projects in the future, Patterson said.
“We need to be very clear with (the city) and make sure developers are aware they need a permit from the state,” she said, noting one of the problems was that developers were building without state approval.
Assistant City Manager Bill Watkins said on Tuesday that he’s not sure what the city did wrong or what the state will require.
“We don’t know what they really mean,” Watkins said.
Patterson said the state decided to issue the 16 permits after reviewing the storm-water management plans for 21 of the sites and deeming them sufficient to protect the stream, which has been classified as impaired since 1998.
Attorney Craig Van Matre, representing developer Aspen Acquisitions, said he’s glad to get the permit for the Grindstone Plaza Wal-Mart Supercenter but has to inspect it before he’s sure construction can begin. He said he won’t be completely confident until he “sees the bulldozers on the ground.”
Meanwhile, five projects are still on hold because the DNR needs more information about the plans. Patterson said the DNR has already met with representatives from Bass Pro Shop and Columbia College to decide how to move forward.
Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton, Columbia College’s plant and facility operations director, said the college has broken ground on the commons and hasn’t stopped work because it hasn’t heard anything from the state. Hutton said the DNR informed the college Tuesday that the permit hasn’t been granted because the application got lost in the mail.
The Columbia City Council adopted a resolution Monday night, urging the DNR to issue the permits. “The council told them they need to tell us what we need to do, and let’s get on with it,” Watkins said.
Meanwhile, the DNR cited the city Jan. 26 for violating the Missouri Clean Water Law because of problems with the sewer extension project on the south fork of Grindstone Creek. Sterling Excavation of Jefferson City was hired to put in the new sewer line to serve the Lake of the Woods subdivision and homes along St. Charles Road. The DNR said the city and contractor were cited for failing to prevent sediment from running into the creek.
Columbia’s chief engineer John Glascock said Tuesday that the problem at Grindstone Creek was an accident — a water main break caused sediment to rush into the creek and settle in the creek bed. He said the city has corrected the problem and the DNR citation was just a formality.
To ensure the problem was adequately addressed, however, the city will meet with DNR representatives today at the Grindstone site.