Date of Award

5-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science

Major

Geography

Major Professor

Carol P. Harden

Committee Members

Bruce E. Tonn, Ronald Foresta

Abstract

Over the past decade, communities across the nation have innovated, regulated, and constructed their way to managing urban stormwater runoff, with the grand goal of making the nation’s waters fishable and swimmable. Regulated under federal NPDES MS4 Phase II stormwater permits, communities have endeavored to implement the comprehensive requirements of this unfunded federal mandate. Reducing the considerable impact of municipal runoff on water resources across the country is imperative to the achievement of grand goals under the Clean Water Act: to restore and protect the quality of the nation’s waters (USEPA, 2000). Across the state of Tennessee, the capacity of communities to respond and the commitment of those responses to the Phase II permit requirements have been varied. Using a qualitative approach, this thesis research explored the stories behind this variation in response. It identified and described the factors that shape the local implementation of this program and explored the innovative strategies put in place to overcome constraints to implementation. Finally it collated and packaged these strategies for dissemination among Tennessee permit-regulated communities. It identified and described common determining factors that lead communities to experience certain constraints. Determining factors that shape the implementation of Phase II permits in Tennessee are a combination of local conditions, perceptions, and implementer characteristics. The most significant influence was that of political support for program goals, which shaped the ability of communities to procure funding, facilitate collaborations, and incorporate program goals into wider government operations. Prominent strategies developed by communities to overcome these constraints were those that sought to educate elected officials and the wider community on the benefits of and need for stormwater management; to form partnerships and collaborations with those internal and external to the government; and to reduce program costs through partnerships and alternative sources of funding. In conclusion, the Phase II stormwater program has prompted much innovation across Tennessee and, in many cases, has initiated more collaborative and efficient stormwater management, feasibly leading to better chances of reducing the impact of ever urbanizing human habitats on the natural environment.

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