Courtesy Carter Lucas / Appen Newspapers
November 30, 2009 Milton — Anyone familiar with things at City Hall has likely heard council, volunteers and planners talk about "stream buffers" in the course of normal business. But what exactly are they?
Stream buffers are those vegetated strips of land along the banks of our streams, lakes and rivers. There have been numerous scientific studies conducted evaluating the effectiveness of these buffers and their impact on surface water quality.
The findings of these studies indicate they have the following benefits:• Stabilize stream banks and reduce channel erosion• Trap and remove contaminants• Store flood waters, thereby reducing property damage• Improve aesthetics• Improve recreational and educational opportunities in local area• Reduce sedimentation of our lakes and streams• Improve aquatic life • Provide habitat for wildlife (also reduce undesirable species, such as geese)
In Georgia, buffers are required along all perennial (normally flowing) and intermittent (flowing during wet seasons) streams, as well as ephemeral features (those that only flow after rainfall) that drain into trout streams.
In non-trout streams like those in Milton, the state requires a minimum 25-foot vegetated buffer extending from the stream bank or the point of wrested vegetation.
However, in the city of Milton these state standards have been extended to require a minimum 50-foot buffer with a 75-foot setback for any impervious surfaces.
These requirements can obviously be a source of conflict between regulatory authorities and those attempting to develop property.
Despite the ongoing debates regarding the necessary width and extent of stream buffers, there is no denying the basic benefits derived from these natural features.
One only needs to compare the waterways we find in nature to those we find in our urban centers to see the difference. Fortunately, at this point, the city of Milton's stream buffers are largely undisturbed.
In order to preserve these valuable resources, we need to continue our efforts to educate the public about their benefits.
Carter Lucas is Milton's principal engineer and interim head of its Public Works Department. He can be reached at 678-242-2500.