Stormwater runoff is water running over land during and immediately after a rainstorm. Stormwater management involves controlling the quantity and quality of stormwater runoff to prevent flooding and impacts to water quality of our rivers, streams and even the ocean, that receive this runoff.

With our growing population, building results in tree clearing and construction of hard, or impervious, surfaces such as concrete, brick, asphalt, and rooftops. Thus, when it rains, water cannot seep back into the ground. Rather, it runs over these hard surfaces, picking up velocity and pollutants along the way – which can cause flooding, erosion and pollution of our waterways.

With booming development in our southern Lowcountry region, elected officials have been discussing how to find the balance between stormwater runoff improvements and a healthy economy for the region. Elected officials from the towns of Bluffton, Ridgeland and Hilton Head Island, City of Hardeeville, and Beaufort and Jasper counties re-established the Southern Lowcountry Regional Board (SoLoCo) on Aug. 29, 2017.

The mission of SoLoCo is “to create a regional think tank that will identify the problems and opportunities that face the entire southern Lowcountry, as defined by the members and regardless of municipal or county boundaries; to discuss the zoning, housing, employment, quality of life and social issues; and to propose action plans to the appropriate legislative bodies.”

SoLoCo prioritized the need for a uniform set of stormwater standards and design guidelines to meet the goal of protecting the region’s sensitive environment, residents’ quality of life, and future economic development opportunities. Seven jurisdictions (Town of Bluffton, Beaufort County, City of Hardeeville, Jasper County, City of Beaufort, Town of Port Royal, and Town of Yemassee) agreed to work with a consultant team of Center for Watershed Protection and McCormick Taylor to draft a regional model stormwater ordinance and design manual.

On Sept. 14 this year, the Bluffton Town Council approved a resolution to adopt the Southern Lowcountry Post Construction Stormwater Ordinance and Southern Lowcountry Stormwater Design Manual.  The creation of the new ordinance and design manual was the result of much research throughout the entire country and other jurisdictions to establish the current “state of the art” knowledge for stormwater management principals, guidelines, practices and standards.

The adoption of both the ordinance and the design manual represents the Town’s commitment to addressing the concerns of the community – rapid growth, mass clearing/grading, tree canopy preservation, environmental/water quality concerns, natural resource preservation/protection – and taking action to reduce and minimize the impacts of development on the natural environment.

To date, the Town of Bluffton and Beaufort County have adopted the new ordinance and design manual requirements for review of development permits applications.

Lisa Sulka is the mayor of the Town of Bluffton.