No need to rush

Published 11:34 am Friday, January 21, 2011

Daily Herald, editorial

The Cedar River Watershed District’s board took a wise step this week when it agreed to hold off on adopting the agency’s operating rules. From construction to agriculture to plowing of snow, the CRWD will have something to say about activities throughout the region. Getting the rules right is important, and there’s no reason to rush.

When the relatively new agency published its proposed rules a couple of weeks ago, city and county officials quickly pointed out that a rule which would forbid piling snow within the Cedar River’s flood plain could prove costly. The city, in particular, has used undeveloped land in the flood plain as a place to pile snow that it hauls away from the sides of streets. If the snow can’t go in the flood plain, or has to be handled in some other special way, it will ultimately cost taxpayers more. Especially if the change has to be made hastily.

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That’s just one example of how the CRWD’s rules, which have the worth goal of protecting and improving water quality in the Cedar River, could affect lives throughout the region. Farmers may have to alter their practices. Construction projects may face new permitting requirements and rules to prevent contamination from reaching the river or its tributaries.

There is also the question of how a new regulatory agency fits into the bigger picture of local government. Will the new agency’s rules duplicate or superseded existing regulations? Will its permitting processes add more work for citizens than is absolutely necessary? The answers are, for the moment, unclear.

What is clear is that the CRWD board has invested many months in developing its rules. Expecting the public and other agencies to understand their impact more quickly is just not realistic. The CRWD and its mission are of immense long-term importance. Accomplishing that mission will depend, in part, on the agency’s underlying rules and how smoothly they are implemented. A few more months is a small price to pay for eventual success.