208 Plan – Example of Local Cooperation and Control
TMACOG manages the Areawide Water Quality Management Plan (the 208 Plan) in cooperation with all the jurisdictions and agencies in the area that manage water treatment facilities. The commitment and hard work of the partners ensures that we are all fixing problems cooperatively and efficiently while planning ahead for maintenance and development. The 208 Plan shows the value of regional cooperation on environmental issues. If partners in this area were not as proactive as they are, there would be constant disputes about what jurisdiction is responsible for what. When managed locally, the people affected can meet regulations while addressing local goals and plans.
Mike Stoll is assistant district engineer for the Northwestern Water and Sewer District (NWSD) in Wood County. His agency works with many of the rural communities in that county to coordinate wastewater treatment and collection systems. He describes the 208 Plan as an essential framework for decision making and management. He says, “By proximity, we all have these common issues. The 208 Plan provides a universal reference document defining our common goals and prioritizing our present and future efforts.” He explains how the plan works, “Although the environment doesn’t care about arbitrary jurisdictional borders, we must define planning areas in order to effectively solve problems.” When a wastewater treatment plant in rural Wood County was failing, options included: replacing the failing plant, routing service to the prescribed Facility Planning Area (FPA) in Haskins, or changing the servicing treatment plant from Haskins to the Bowling Green FPA. In this case, Bowling Green had the capacity and was the best alternative. Partners involved were flexible enough to change service contracts and make other accommodations to achieve the most efficient and cost-effective option.
Stoll notes the complexity of planning for sewers, sewerage, and treatment. “The financial and technical capacity of small communities is limited. When we work together, we all benefit from sharing expertise and leveraging regional capabilities.” Having a 208 Plan also allows NWSD to leverage grants between small communities. When the villages of Risingsun and West Millgrove were both ordered by the Ohio EPA to improve wastewater treatment, it would have been more expensive to build two separate systems. However, working through the 208 Plan, they were able to adjust the defined planning areas and build one wastewater treatment plant to serve both communities.
To explain the value of regional cooperation, Stoll adds, “If there was no 208 Plan and no framework, there would be limited continuity or shared knowledge. Now we have a historical record that shows how and why decisions were made. It makes future decisions easier even when personnel change.”
The newest update to the 208 Plan addresses changes to public wastewater treatment, on-site sewage treatment (septic systems and package plants), and stormwater management. The update has been endorsed by the TMACOG Environmental Council and will be presented to the TMACOG Executive Committee and Board of Trustees at their June 8 meetings. Action by the Board of Trustees makes the plan the official document for the region. Once the 208 Plan is adopted, the Ohio EPA cannot approve a permit that is in conflict with the plan. Interested people can see the updated plan here (large PDF).