A vegetated buffer absorbs contaminants and prevents erosion along this Kiawah Island stormwater pond.
Grace Beahm A vegetated buffer absorbs contaminants and prevents erosion along this Kiawah Island stormwater pond.

Builders in Lexington County, South Carolina are pushing the county government to reduce the width of terrain required to be left undisturbed during construction work near streams and ponds. The State has this March 6 report (see: "Builders press to reduce buffers on Lexington County streams, ponds," by Tim Flach).

The current required setback from water bodies is 100 feet, but builders want the distance cut to just 50 feet. From the paper's report: "Anything larger is costly environmental overkill, said Earl McLeod, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina. Large swaths of landscape around streams and ponds provide protection that is 'marginal at best' while driving up the cost of development by reducing site use, he said."

"Builders estimate the 100-foot buffer plan removes 8,400 acres from possible development countywide," the paper reported. "That puts about 13 square miles – just under 2 percent of the 758-square-mile county – off-limits for homes, stores and offices."

"Stream buffers cannot be disturbed during project construction and must be left in the existing conditions upon completion of construction activities," a county policy brief explains (see: "Water Quality Buffers"). "The area associated with a stream buffer may be dedicated to the County, turned over to a Homeowners Association, or included as part of a conservation easement."