A new environmentally friendly system of handling rainwater runoff on development projects will put Chattanooga in the forefront nationally if the standards are approved early next year, an official said Wednesday.
Chattanooga will be the first city in the state and second nationally behind Washington, D.C., to have such a green slate of proposals if the City Council approves them, said Mo Minkara, the city's water quality manager.
"It's a holistic approach," said Minkara at the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association's environmental summit.
Minkara said that among the proposed runoff reduction initiatives are offering credits toward city water quality fees for a developer who goes beyond requirements.
Also, another proposal involves transferring credits between projects.
For example, a developer could bank a credit for another project involving his or her company, Minkara said. Also, the developer could trade the credit on an open market that's to be created to an entirely different company, he said.
The dollar amounts of the credits haven't been finalized, Minkara said.
The proposed rainwater management guide is being crafted to meet state regulations effective Dec. 1, 2014, on both new or redevelopment projects.
Currently, rainwater can be piped off projects. In the future, the first inch must stay on a development site, Minkara said. He said that for the South Chickamauga Creek area, the city would boost the volume to 1.6 inches to better protect the waterway, according to the staff recommendations.
Better use of landscaping on projects and utilizing porous pavers are among other guidelines, Minkara said. He said the city has used the pavers on a 1.6-acre site of Johnson Street and "eliminated the drainage issue."
Some people at the summit initially were upbeat about the potential new system.
John Boudreaux, a project engineer at Southern Champion Tray, said the rainwater proposals look as if it would offer developers more options.
"I'm excited about it," he said.
Jim Morgan, owner of Cleveland, Tenn., consulting firm Safety and Environmental Compliance, said the proposed standards appear good for the city, but cautioned that "everything comes with a cost."
"Based on what I'm seeing, I'd like to see if it's cost effective," he said.
Minkara said the proposed standards could create more green space at some developments with the creation of fewer detention ponds. Or, some outparcels once used for a pond could be freed up for development under a new system, the water quality official said.
The proposed guidelines could lower or increase costs to the developer, depending the project and its location, he said. In urban areas, costs may go higher, he said. But costs may drop on suburban projects, Minkara said.
Also at the conference, the director of environmental affairs for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Refreshments said clean water is key to the company that produces not just soft drinks but Powerade and Dasani.
Reginald Prime said that water is up to 95 percent of some of its products.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.