Steamboat Springs Routt County is selling a handbook to help teach contractors ways to reduce river runoff problems connected to ground erosion on construction sites. The book also will prepare the community for a possible amendment to the building code to help control runoff problems.
"Erosion control on construction sites has been a primary interest in the community," Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said.
The handbook has 51 pages that outline the best management practices for avoiding an inappropriate amount of runoff from erosion and sediment into the Yampa River.
Monger said a certain amount of erosion is natural, but too much of it as the result of humans manipulating the land threatens the health of the river.
The handbook states excessive runoff interferes with insect and fish habitat in the river, causes increased algae and increases water-treatment costs.
With numerous out-of-town or new contractors in the valley who may not be aware of runoff issues, it was important to put the handbook together so the information is available, Monger added.
New federal regulations for controlling runoff go into effect next year that include sites one acre in size and larger. Previously, five-acre sites and larger only had to adhere to the regulations. The state also will have to follow suit with implementing similar regulations. Some of the practices in the handbook mirrors the federal regulations, said Mark Markus, county chief building official, who worked on the handbook.
He said the county has guidelines for managing runoff during excavating and grading projects, but those don't cover erosion and sediment concerns.
Mike Zopf, Routt County director of environmental services, also worked on the handbook. He said the single best and easiest thing for contractors to do to avoid erosion problems is to keep the existing vegetation in place. Once vegetation is taken out of the ground, the soil is susceptible to runoff problems.
"These are things that people should be doing anyways," Zopf said of the practices outlined in the handbook.
In the coming months, commissioners will discuss a resolution to amend the building code so construction sites are managing erosion and sediment problems, Monger said.
He explained the county hopes to have the resolution passed and the community educated on the matter by next spring's runoff.
Local contractors will still have to adhere to federal and state regulations if a resolution isn't passed, but having local control better ensures the practices are being followed day in and day out, Zopf said.
On the state level, for example, there are only two people who handle such violations. They don't monitor construction projects and enforce the regulations only when a complaint is filed, Zopf said.
The handbooks can be purchased at the Routt County Health Department, 427 Oak St., or at the Routt County Building Department at the Routt County Courthouse.