The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is adding a call-in option to two of three public hearings this week on changes to rules for preserving the topsoil at construction sites. The DNR’s Joe Griffen says there are not well-defined standards for replacing the topsoil.
“Iowa has a requirement that requires 4 inches or more of topsoil to be placed on construction sites that require a stormwater permit if four inches or more of topsoil existed prior to construction,” Griffen says. The new rules would ease the 4-inch rule. Griffen says the change would be closer to the federal requirement which is to “preserve topsoil unless infeasible.”
Developers pushed regulators for changes to the two-year-old rule, saying it was more expensive and not enforced the same way at every site. Griffen says the DNR has already had some 500 comments on the proposed change, and that has prompted them to add the call-in option for the meetings in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. “They can call into an 800 number and then type in a code and then they’ll be in the loop,” Griffen says. “And what we’re asking for people if they wish to call in, is to email me and then I’ll have a list of names and I can call on them, and then after everyone has said their piece, then we can open it up to just general comments for people on the phone lines.” If you’d like to call in, you are asked to email Griffen at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He says they don’t have the ability to offer the call in feature for the hearing in Davenport.
Griffen says the call-in is something new for him. “I have never experienced this for hearings for rulemaking. Perhaps others have done it here — but to my knowledge this is the first time we have done it,” Griffen says. Griffen says all comments on the issue will be used in the Environment Protection Commission’s decision on the change. He says he will write up a Response Summary for all the comments expressed by people. “Now we don’t necessarily respond to each comment individually, because a lot of the comments will be similar, be we address the sum of the concerns of the folks out there,” Griffen explains.
The commission takes the comments into consideration before their vote on the rules. “And they will decide whether or not to adopt the rule as is. If they approve it, then we go to the administrative rules review committee, which is a legislative committee, for their review,” Griffen says.
The public hearings begin Wednesday in Cedar Rapids at 6 p.m. at the City Services Center in the Five Seasons Conference Room. The second meeting is March 25 at 6 p.m. in Davenport. The final meeting is at 1 p.m. at the Wallace Building Auditorium in Des Moines on March 27th.