What’s in a waterway with no water? More than you might think.
Out West, travelers cross bridges over dry creek beds identified as “washes.” These empty streams look like the surrounding desert terrain – except in rainy seasons when the dry channel may morph into a raging torrent with little warning. Desert flash floods can be deadly.
In Kentucky, environmentalists have at times criticized the construction of sewage treatment plants on intermittent “blue-line” streams that, like desert washes, remain dry much of the time. In effect, the treatment plants turn them into open sewers filled with little besides treated wastewater.
A blue-line stream bed on which the Franklin County Fair has conducted its motor sports competition over the past 20 years is so intermittent as to be nearly non-existent. In fact, members of the Franklin County Fair Board don’t even believe it’s there. The county’s own Parks Committee wasn’t much better informed until the year before last when Fiscal Court received plans for construction of a new school near Franklin County High School, which abuts the county’s Lakeview Park, site of the fair each July.
County Planning Director Robert Hewitt said the blue-line stream indicated on the plans immediately raised a red flag. The Clean Water Act and the Kentucky Division of Water mandate that the county regulate land disturbances along and within a waterway to prevent impairment of whatever flow might occur.
This requirement apparently posed no serious difficulties for fair activities. County officials worked with the Fair Board last year to get the necessary land disturbance permit.
But now the board’s $1 lease of land on the blue-line stream is up for renewal and county Judge-Executive Ted Collins wants to pin down in writing who’s responsible for complying with environmental regulations. There’s good reason to care, given that the federal government could fine the county up to $200,000 for failing to meet legal requirements. Collins proposed to renew the lease on terms similar to those in the original agreement, adding a section that makes the Fair Board responsible for obtaining any necessary permits, including the one related to land disturbances along a blue-line stream.
No deal, retorted Fair Board President Donna Gay, who sees more afoot here than appeasement of the federal bureaucracy. She rejected a motion from one board member who was prepared to take the judge’s offer and run.
“Ted (Collins) and I are not on very good terms,” she confessed after this week’s meeting. Her suspicion is that county government’s chief executive aspires to evict the Fair Board from the location and carry out another agenda, details unspecified.
A county politician who wants to send the county fair packing? That’s even harder to believe than a stream you can’t see. “I’ve been a supporter of the Franklin County Fair for well over 30 years,” Collins told The State Journal’s Lauren Hallow. “If not, we wouldn’t be leasing (the fairgrounds) to them for a dollar a year.”
The Fair Board plans to discuss and possibly renew the lease at a special meeting next week. Barring more substantive revelations regarding conspiracy theories, we’d recommend members accept the offer, including waterway protection requirements, and get on with the business of making the Franklin County Fair the best it can be for a long time to come.