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Study sets up watershed debate Columbia Tribune September 25, 2005

ARS SCIENTIST CONTRIBUTES TO EPA 319 PROJECT IN THE NEWS: ARS research led by Dr. Robert Lerch of the Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit, Columbia, MO, was instrumental in the successful award of this EPA 319 non-point source pollution control grant, and he serves on the project’s Steering Committee. The project, located within the Bonne Femme Watershed, is administered by the Boone County Commission, which this week announced an upcoming public meeting and debate about policy recommendations regarding future land-use planning for the Bonne Femme watershed. The recommendations were provided as part of a sub-watershed sensitivity analysis conducted by consultants with Applied Ecological Services. The news release appeared on the front page of the Columbia Tribune (September 25, 2005).

The article can be viewed at:

Study sets up watershed debate
Bonne Femme faces urbanizing pressure.

By RACHEL WEBB of the Tribune’s staff
Published Sunday, September 25, 2005

Some people see caves, rolling hills and forests when they look at the Bonne Femme watershed.

Others see farmland they have worked for years, and some see property that could house the influx of families moving to the Columbia area.

Organizers of the Bonne Femme Watershed Project seek to meld the three perspectives to develop a land-use plan that everyone can support, said Terry Frueh, a watershed conservationist overseeing the project.

The watershed is a 93-square-mile area stretching from Columbia’s southern edge to the northern outskirts of Ashland.

"A lot of people appreciate the physical beauty of the area, but Columbia is growing from the north and Ashland is growing from the south, and it’s a desirable place to live," Frueh said of the area between the two municipalities. "The purpose of the project is to study urbanization and try and maintain and enhance the quality of the streams while it urbanizes."

The area is unusual for its mixture of former prairie land east of Highway 63 and the forests, floodplains and karst topography that lie west of the highway, Frueh said.

It also contains several tracts of public land, such as Rock Bridge Memorial State Park and Three Creeks State Forest.

In June 2003, Boone County received a grant to fund the project from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A committee of 18 stakeholders, including environmentalists, landowners and representatives from the development industry, is working to determine policies and development plans for the area based on needs in the watershed.

"If you were to ask a group of landowners to come up with a plan and then ask environmentalists to come up with a plan and ask the business community to come up with a plan, they’d come up with three plans that are quite a bit different," said Ben Londeree, the group’s co-chairman. "Now it’s a matter of: How can we merge these?"

Londeree is also chairman of the Boone County Smart Growth Coalition and a member of a task force on storm-water issues.

In its deliberations, the group will debate the recently released subwatershed sensitivity analysis. The study highlights the most sensitive areas of the watershed and analyzes water flow.

Areas close to Columbia and Ashland as well as agricultural land east of Highway 63 should be prioritized for protection, according to the report.

Protection shouldn’t mean a halt in development, said Annie Pope of the Columbia Home Builders Association. Development is necessary to avoid sprawl, she said. The need for housing in a growing area should be balanced with the need for water protection, Pope said. She said she does not believe those needs are mutually exclusive.

"I think there are people who want to limit development in that area in the mistaken belief that it will protect water quality," Pope said. "There are" best management practices "that could be put in place that would protect water quality just as well as limiting development will."

The subwatershed sensitivity analysis, prepared by Wisconsin-based Applied Ecological Services, can be found at Copies of the report are available at the Columbia Public Library, the Southern Boone County Public Library, the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Ellis Library and the Boone County Planning and Building Inspection Office. The report will be the subject of public presentations and debate in November.

Last Modified: 10/4/2005
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