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DNREC hones in on poultry projects in runoff regulation talks

Stephen Walling/Wikimedia Commons

DNREC began meeting with the chicken and construction industries this week to make sure new stormwater runoff regulations will mesh with large-scale poultry development.


The agency has been embroiled in a court battle over how those runoff rules were initially put in place. Developers said they weren't given enough time to study them and raise objections -- and a judge agreed, tossing out the rules in September.


Now, they're back in place under a court stay while DNREC hashes out industry concerns. DNREC secretary David Small the original regulations posed a problem for one sector in particular:


"There was nothing in there that really gave folks a path toward compliance for large-scale poultry house construction," he says.


Specifically, he says that means projects with four to eight or more chicken houses on five or more acres of land. He says DNREC's rules let smaller projects design runoff plans with a template. Rather than hire an engineer, he says bigger ones want to use it too:


"It allows a developer to look at the soil type, look at the vegetation, look at any water features on a site, look at the groundwater, look at whether the site is forested or what type of vegetation may be there," Small says, "and using those factors, figure out what the best way to achieve compliance is."


That could mean digging ponds or swales to mitigate runoff, or paying fees to the state instead. Without that kind of template and with uncertainty surrounding the regulations, developers say their projects were getting held up -- though Small says some did manage to get permitted this year.


And with a lower bar for the amount of runoff that's regulated, Small recognizes those fees might go up for some projects. He says that'll be part of ongoing talks with industry reps next year.


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