County passes plan to en­sure fund­ing for stormwa­ter projects

The Avenue News - - Front Page - By BRAD KRONER bkro­ner@ches­pub.com

On Mon­day, Sept. 19, the Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil passed its fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan that will en­sure stormwa­ter cleanup projects lead to water qual­ity goals, as man­dated by the Clean Water Act and en­forced by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency (EPA).

Although of­fi­cials re­main con­fi­dent they will be able to meet the EPA’s cri­te­ria, the fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan shows that fund­ing lev­els for stormwa­ter projects will see a stark drop in fis­cal year 2018.

Af­ter the stormwa­ter re­me­di­a­tion fee — which was orig­i­nally ini­ti­ated in 2012 — was re­pealed at the state level, county gov­ern­ments were given the op­tion to con­tinue charg­ing the fee, re­ferred to as the rain tax. If county gov­ern­ments ended the fee, they would be re­quired by the EPA to cre­ate a fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan that would demon­strate ac­tions that would re­sult in im­proved water qual­ity.

The Bal­ti­more County Coun­cil voted in Oc­to­ber 2015 to phase out the fee by July 2017.

The EPA re­quires that the fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plans “in­di­cate how stormwa­ter runoff will be treated and paid for over the next five years and will pro­vide the fi­nan­cial roadmap for com­ply­ing with the EPA’s to­tal max­i­mum daily load (TMDL) re­quire­ments, also known as the ‘pol­lu­tion diet’ for Chesapeake Bay.”

A TDML works the same way as a nu­tri­tion diet. If a wa­ter­way has too much of a cer­tain pol­lu­tant, a plan is de­vel­oped to iden­tify the cause and so­lu­tion.

Eigh­teen TDML plans have been com­pleted by the county and three are in de­vel­op­ment, with the ex­pec­ta­tion of be­ing com­pleted by early 2017, ac­cord­ing to the fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plan. A to­tal of 25 TDML plans have been sub­mit­ted to the Mary­land Depart­ment of the En­vi­ron­ment for re­view. The plans seek to limit the amount of cer­tain pol­lu­tants, which in­clude: bac­te­ria, sed­i­ment, phos­pho­rous, nu­tri­ents, mercury, chlor­dane, PCBs and trash.

David Lykens, deputy direc­tor of the county’s en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion depart­ment, said the county has to “get it done” with or with­out the stormwa­ter re­me­dia- tion fee.

“We just have to do more projects,” he said.

Street sweep­ing and in­let clean­ing are two on­go­ing projects that seek to re­duce pol­lu­tion from stormwa­ter runoff.

Projects must also be com­pleted too as a part of the im­per­vi­ous sur­face restora­tion plan. Ar­eas with high amounts of im­per­vi­ous sur­faces like roads and side­walks are sub­ject to greater amounts of pol­lu­tion from stormwa­ter runoff.

A num­ber of cap­i­tal projects, such as re­for­esta­tion projects and up­grades to stormwa­ter main­te­nance ponds, aim to re­duce the county’s im­per­vi­ous space and im­prove treat­ment of stormwa­ter. Other projects will work with the Bal­ti­more County Depart­ment of Pub­lic Works to en­hance the county’s in­fra­struc­ture to im­prove han­dling of stormwa­ter runoff.

In the past, the stormwa­ter re­me­di­a­tion fee has gen­er­ated around $24 mil­lion for projects. That num­ber dips to $16 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2016 and $11 mil­lion in fis­cal year 2017, be­fore be­ing elim­i­nated en­tirely in 2018.

The projects will con­tinue to be funded by the county, as re­quired, but the county will lack the ad­di­tional rev­enue gen­er­ated by the fee. Funds used to sup­port stormwa­ter cleanup ef­forts will see a sharp dropoff in fis­cal year 2018.

In fis­cal years 2014 to 2017, the an­nual fund­ing never dips be­low $32.8 mil­lion, and it raises as high as $73 mil­lion in 2017, when the county uses $43 mil­lion of sur­plus funds from cap­i­tal fund­ing in pre­vi­ous years.

But in fis­cal year 2018, the fund­ing dips to $18.8 mil­lion.

“Hav­ing the money al­ways helps,” Lykens said. “But we have to get it done. We’re work­ing on get­ting through the re­quire­ments by 2018. We have shown we can make the re­quire­ments by 2018.”

Back River and Pat­ap­sco River are graded as the least healthy trib­u­taries in the Chesapeake Bay re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land’s Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Science.

The MDE has said that stormwa­ter runoff is a lead­ing con­trib­u­tor to pol­lu­tion in these trib­u­taries, due to their prox­im­ity to ur­ban and sub­ur­ban ar­eas.

A link to the MDE’s fi­nan­cial as­sur­ance plans can be found here: http://www.mde.state.md.us/pro­grams/Water/ Stormwa­terMan­age­men­tPro­gram/Sed­i­men­tandS­tormwa­terHome/Pages/WPRPFi­nan­cialAs­sur­ancePlans.aspx

Bal­ti­more County’s plan can be found here: http://www.mde.state.md.us/pro­grams/Water/ Stormwa­terMan­age­men­tPro­gram/Sed­i­men­tandS­tormwa­terHome/ Doc­u­ments/Bal­ti­more% 20County%20FAP%20and%20WPRP%20An­nual%20Re­port.pdf.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF GOOGLE MAPS

With I-695 and East­ern Boule­vard cross­ing it, and with the com­mu­nity of Es­sex nearby, Back River is sur­rounded by im­per­vi­ous sur­faces that con­trib­ute to pol­lu­tion from stormwa­ter runoff.

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