Hinkson Creek progress impresses EPA and DNR officials

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COLUMBIA - Members of the Hinkson Creek Collaborative Adaptive Management (CAM) Stakeholder Committee presented a progress report on the plan to improve the creek's water quality Wednesday evening.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Karl Brooks said the creek has shown signs of improvement in the past two years.

"This creek is already showing signs of getting healthier," Brooks said. "It took a while to get here, and it's going to take a while to get it to the point it needs to be, but everyone is very invested." 

Described as a five-way agreement between the city of Columbia, Boone County, the University of Missouri, the EPA and Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), the CAM process is a united effort to improve the water quality of Hinkson Creek and wetlands.

Columbia Public Works engineer Erin Keys also attended the meeting and said the CAM process in an innovative way to deal with these water quality issues.

"The process uses science to inform what types of improvements we need to do in our water sheds to improve the water quality," Keys said. "There are three teams that work together to determine where the process needs to go to improve Hinkson Creek."

MDNR Director Sara Parker Pauley explained the CAM process differs from the old "command and control" policies that normally would follow a pollution issue. She said Columbia was the perfect place to try out a new process.

"There are the old 'command and control' tools for effective environmental regulation that are also very very necessary, but this collaborative adaptive management is a more flexible approach where you take time...but you're basing your decision on sound science to make sure the decisions you are making are good for the community. That takes additional time and additional commitment."

The progress report summarized the progress over the past two years, including a physical habitat assessment, which combines hands-on field work with geographic information systems to document the current status of the creek. 

"In the future, we can go back and compare, this is where it changed, this is what's different, this is how it's better, this is how it's worse," Keys said. 

Brooks said he was impressed with Columbia's progress and said the CAM process is difficult to undertake, but worth the effort. 

"The basic track of making science drive good decisions and getting all the key players together - city, county, university, state, EPA - that's got real mileage around the country, I'm convinced of that."