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Cape Girardeau County approves new stormwater plan

Photo by Jay Forness

The Cape Girardeau County Commission approved a new Storm Water Management Plan on Dec. 30. The new plan went into effect Jan. 1, but is subject to modifications due to public input or guidance from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The plan was prepared by Koehler Engineering and is a requirement to be in accordance with the county’s Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit issued by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The county’s MS4 permit renewed on Oct. 1, 2021, and is good for five years.

“The county was not in compliance with several aspects of their existing permit at the time that the permit expired,” Chris Koehler of Kohler Engineering said. “We received an audit and a list of deficiencies in late August, which we are in the process right now of resolving and correcting so moving forward we are in compliance with our new permit.”

Presiding Commissioner Clint Tracy said the non-compliance was not due to county citizens doing the wrong thing, but that the documentation and follow-up by the county needed to be changed.

“This is one of those situations where the state and the feds are forcing this down on us to enforce their regulations,” Tracy said. “It wasn’t like we had flagrant offenders, it was just that the procedures weren’t as tight [as they needed to be].”

The county commission voted in early December to be voluntarily placed into DNR’s non-compliance division and work with DNR personnel to achieve compliance. Koehler said the state would waive any fines and penalties related to non-compliance, and would give the county 27 months to get in full compliance.

Without voluntarily being placed into the non-compliance division, the county would have had to be in full compliance by the end of September. “I think DNR realizes that this is a challenge, and frankly, they are also understaffed, so it gives us time and it give them time,” Koehler said.

Assistant Highway Administrator Marc Scheffel added that the county had sent its previous stormwater management plan to DNR around five years ago for review, but never received a response.

“The county had made a really good start on this between 2016 and 2018, and the last couple years of your permit cycle were unfortunately when COVID hit and everyone was gone,” Koehler told the commissioners. “It was one of those items that fell by the wayside.”

The new stormwater plan includes six minimum control measures required by the state, which include permitting and monitoring of best management practices related to stormwater discharge during construction projects and post construction.

The minimum control measures also include illicit discharge detection and elimination, pollution prevention, public education and public involvement.

Koehler said the new stormwater information will be included on the county’s website, as well as given to contractors when building permits are issued for the urbanized area of the county.

The plan only covers property inside the “urbanized area” of the county as stated by the United State Census and excludes all municipalities. “It’s actually a pretty small area,” Koehler said. “It is currently only areas of dense population adjacent to the incorporated limits of Cape or Jackson.”

Koehler indicated that the urbanized area map, which can be found on the stormwater page of the county’s website, will be revised with the 2020 census data expected to be released in July.

“It may change in 2022 or it may not,” Koehler said. “We won’t know until those maps become available, and at that time, it would take some time to create a database of the properties and parties within that area.”

The plan will need to be reviewed by DNR and public input can still be directed to the county commission. Koehler said the county can update the plan anytime over the next five years if changes are needed.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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