Cit­i­zens: Plan not enough to pro­tect Mat­ta­woman

Restora­tion process de­bated dur­ing pub­lic hear­ing

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

Pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, es­pe­cially the Mat­ta­woman stream val­leys, has been a hot topic in Charles County for some time — and that did not change dur­ing last Tues­day’s pub­lic hear­ing con­cern­ing the county’s Water­shed Pro­tec­tion Fi­nan­cial As­sur­ance Plan.

The plan was es­tab­lished by state reg­u­la­tion un­der the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment. Karen Wiggen, a plan­ner with the county’s Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Growth Man­age­ment, said the plan’s pur­pose is

to meet im­per­vi­ous sur­face restora­tion re­quire­ments for costs and rev­enues.

The plan ex­am­ines the county’s lim­its over the next few years and is added into the county’s bud­get. The county must meet mu­nic­i­pal sep­a­rate storm sewer system (MS4) per­mit, ac­cord­ing to state reg­u­la­tion, by 2020. The fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan helps the county get to that point by set­ting reg­u­la­tions and fi­nan­cial

poli­cies, which in­clude hav­ing a 20 per­cent im­per­vi­ous sur­face restora­tion rate by 2020.

“It’s a fairly new bill and this is our first time for do­ing a fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan,” Wiggen said. “Par­tic­u­larly the pur­pose is to look to see if we have the fund­ing to do the 20 per­cent im­per­vi­ous sur­face restora­tion re­quire­ment. That is the most ex­pen­sive re­quire­ment of the MS4 per­mit.”

The fund­ing sources for the plan come from four dif­fer­ent funds, Wiggen said, all within the county’s bud­get. The stormwa­ter

pro­tec­tion and restora­tion fund, in­spec­tion and re­view fund, en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vice fund and the gen­eral fund all play a role in the plan, she said.

“All of these funds have al­ready been through the of­fi­cial pub­lic adop­tion process so none of the num­bers are new. They’re all ex­ist­ing,” Wiggen said.

The county has just over 7,000 acres of un­treated im­per­vi­ous sur­face, Wiggen said, and 1,410 acres must be treated to meet the restora­tion re­quire­ment. There are 223.4 acres al­ready treated, she said, which cost $6.59 mil­lion over the last eight years. Treat­ing the land in­cluded im­ple­ment­ing street sweep­ing pro­grams, storm drain vac­u­um­ing and sep­tic pump outs.

Eric Fisher, an en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cate and Charles County cit­i­zen, said pol­luted runoff is a Ch­e­sa­peake Bay prob­lem,

but it also af­fects the Mat­ta­woman water­shed and Port To­bacco River.

The runoff from im­per­vi­ous sur­faces brings flood­ing, ero­sion and trash is­sues, plus chem­i­cals into the streams of the county. It is “not a good neigh­bor,” Fisher said.

“It ba­si­cally turns a liv­ing re­source into a chute for pol­lu­tion,” Fisher said. “It’s ba­si­cally a re­sult of de­vel­op­ment.”

The rest of the bat­tle is “fix­ing what is al­ready here,” Fisher said, and the per­mit would help do that.

But the plan au­tho­rizes trad­ing waste­water treat­ment ca­pac­ity un­til more stormwa­ter treat­ment projects be­come af­ford­able, and that does not have the same pos­i­tive ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment, Fisher said.

There will be some ni­tro­gen re­duc­tion from us­ing waste­water treat­ment ca­pac­ity, Fisher said, but the trash and pol­lu­tion is­sues

in the streams are not ad­dressed. The com­mu­nity prac­tic­ing en­vi­ron­men­tally-friendly green­ing poli­cies will be left as a missed op­por­tu­nity.

The county needs to look at trad­ing and make sure they are get­ting the best deal, which may not in­volve trad­ing at all, Fisher said. And it may soon be out­lawed by the Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment, he said.

Jim Long, pres­i­dent of the Mat­ta­woman Water­shed So­ci­ety and a Charles County res­i­dent, said he agreed with Fisher’s as­sess­ment on trad­ing. The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency has not ap­proved trad­ing to ac­quire an MS4 per­mit, he said.

If the county chooses to rely on trad­ing, Long said, dis­ap­proval of the fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan from the state could be on the hori­zon.

“It re­minds me of the time when the county was ram­pantly per­mit­ting sub­di­vi­sions on the gam­ble that the cross county con­nec­tor would be ap­proved,” Long said.

Mat­ta­woman is on the brink of ir­re­versible degra­da­tion from im­per­vi­ous sur­face dam­age, Long said. The MS4 per­mit re­quires a restora­tion plan from the county for the Mat­ta­woman water­shed, but Long said the county’s cur­rent restora­tion plan does not meet those re­quire­ments.

That same restora­tion plan, Long said, is what the county is bas­ing its fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan off of. It is not good enough, he con­tin­ued.

“It fails to pro­vide a sched­ule or end dates to meet the re­quired ni­tro­gen re­duc­tion to the Mat­ta­woman,” Long said. “From the stand­point of the Mat­ta­woman’s health, it’s ac­tu­ally much worse.”

By 2025, ni­tro­gen pol­lu­tion will be 400 per­cent greater than the Mat­ta­woman’s state reg­u­lated base­line, Long said.

Bonnie Bick, a mem­ber of the Smarter Growth Al­liance for Charles County, said im­per­vi­ous sur­face is­sues for the county need to be­come a pri­or­ity. For Mat­ta­woman Creek, she said, 300 ad­di­tional projects may be nec­es­sary to re­store it to its proper lev­els.

“It’s ex­pen­sive,” Bick said. “And I am ex­tremely con­cerned be­cause this is only about past im­per­vi­ous sur­faces. Noth­ing about fu­ture im­per­vi­ous sur­faces.”

The past and the fu­ture need to be con­sid­ered, Bick said. If they are not, she said, the hole the county is in will be­come deeper.

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