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Ohio

Big Darby Accord to Advance Darby Watershed Protection

The Nature Conservancy is dedicated to preserving our freshwater systems in a lasting and tangible way, not only because of the biodiversity they support today - but because clean water and healthy aquatic habitats will be at least as valuable to future generations as they are to us today.

Development pressure in Ohio is a well-known threat to stream health.  Small amounts of residential and commercial development -just a few percent of a watershed - can have disastrous consequences for a stream's biology. 

In 2004, recognizing the threat of development's significant impacts, Franklin County jurisdictions joined to develop The Big Darby Accord to address protection of Big Darby Creek and its tributaries within the County.  "Ten jurisdictions in the Big Darby Watershed within Franklin County have resolved to work together cooperatively to develop a multi-jurisdictional plan and accompanying preservation and growth strategies, capable of implementation, oversight and enforcement to preserve and protect the Big Darby Creek and its tributaries." [2]   The "Big Darby Accord Watershed Master Plan" was published in June, 2006.  This plan includes several principles addressing environmental sensitivity and land use, and recommended development and conservation strategies geared toward protecting the Big Darby's biodiversity. 

As of late 2007, six jurisdictions, the City of Columbus, Brown Township, Pleasant Township, Prairie Township, Washington Township and Franklin County, had adopted the Accord's "Watershed Master Plan" of 2006.   These jurisdictions presently cover about 95% of the Big Darby watershed in Franklin County."[4]

This move forward couldn't have come too soon.  In fact, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's 2004 report, "Darby at the Crossroads," [1] provides the following warning:

The Darby watershed is at a crossroads. The unique and diverse biological communities of fish, freshwater mussels and the associated benthic invertebrate fauna (aquatic insects, worms, etc.) can be saved for posterity through wise water resource management and land use decisions. However, without sufficient action and precautions in the near future, declines in water quality and stream habitat may forever change the essential character of these streams. Point source pollution (from pipes), runoff from urban areas and agricultural land, and poor stream bank land management are degrading some stream segments today. Among the most visible and widely publicized future threats to the Darby is conversion of farm land to suburban and commercial land uses, especially in Franklin County."

The Darby Accord's goals are based on technical standards established by Ohio EPA.  These environmental goals [3] require major reductions in pollutants such as phosphorus (found in fertilizers) and sediment (from erosion).  They also encourage habitat preservation along streams, as well as goals for maintaining more natural flows in streams. 

Working to protect streams means transcending traditional political and bureaucratic boundaries. "Watershed boundaries pay no attention to political boundaries, and whatever is done upstream is felt downstream," the Conservancy's Freshwater Policy Specialist Anthony Sasson explains. "It does very little good for one area to have the most advanced development standards when a suburb upstream could totally negate the benefits from those standards."

While these standards are some of the most protective in Ohio, it remains to be determined if they will adequately protect the rare species and other biodiversity of the Big Darby and its tributaries.  The Conservancy supports continual review of these issues and is working with state and local governments to encourage advances in understanding and implementation.

The Big Darby Accord participating jurisdictions are:

Brown Township
City of Columbus 
City of Hilliard
Franklin County 
Grove City
Norwich Township
Pleasant Township 
Prairie Township 
Village of Harrisburg
Washington Township 

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