Watershed Protection Fee

Stormwa­ter runoff accounts for over twenty per­cent of the pol­lu­tion impact­ing our local streams and the Chesa­peake Bay. Howard County has a strong com­mit­ment to address stormwa­ter runoff problems, yet there is a still great deal of work to be done; and it will take all of us work­ing together to reach our water qual­ity goals. This stormwa­ter management challenge provides opportunities for some valuable partnerships between gov­ern­ment, non-profits and the busi­ness community.

Water­shed Pro­tec­tion Fee

Mary­land is kick­ing off a new pro­gram to bet­ter man­age stormwa­ter — rain water that runs off into the envi­ron­ment and is not treated by waste­water treat­ment plants. The state passed a law in 2012 requir­ing each County to develop a pro­gram to bet­ter man­age stormwa­ter and to cre­ate a fund to pay for those projects.

In Jan­u­ary, 2013 County Exec­u­tive Ulman pre-filed leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate a ded­i­cated Water­shed Pro­tec­tion Fee — more com­monly referred to as the stormwa­ter util­ity fund. This state-required fund will be fun­da­men­tal in the County’s efforts to man­age the only grow­ing source of pol­lu­tion to our streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

In the Chesa­peake region, before the influ­ence of mod­ern soci­ety, stormwa­ter was damp­ened by an exten­sive tree canopy and then quickly absorbed into the for­est floor. Runoff only occurred dur­ing the largest of storms, when stream banks over­flowed into sur­round­ing flood plains until the storm passed. Today, with less for­est cover and over 19,000 acres of rooftops, dri­ve­ways, roads and park­ing lots in the county; runoff can­not soak into the ground, flood plains are often chan­nel­ized; and stormwa­ter rushes all too quickly off imper­vi­ous areas, goug­ing out stream banks, and erod­ing soils along the way.

Since the advent of stormwa­ter man­age­ment reg­u­la­tions 25 years ago, designs to man­age flow have improved, result­ing in a land­scape dot­ted with a vari­ety of man­age­ment struc­tures, from ponds, to swales, inlets, out­let and hun­dreds of miles of pipe. All together, Howard County’s stormwa­ter infra­struc­ture rep­re­sents an invest­ment of over $660 mil­lion. Since stormwa­ter runoff is respon­si­ble for 20% of the pol­lu­tion to the Chesa­peake Bay, it only makes sense that main­te­nance of this infra­struc­ture invest­ment is vital to our col­lec­tive efforts to save our back­yard streams and the Bay.

Over the last year, County staff has worked hard to design a water­shed restora­tion fund that addresses stormwa­ter main­te­nance short­com­ings and encom­passes new con­struc­tion projects needed to meet our water qual­ity man­dates in a fair and equi­table man­ner. We com­mis­sioned a diverse stormwa­ter advi­sory com­mit­tee com­posed of home­own­ers, busi­ness own­ers, the faith com­mu­nity, the envi­ron­men­tal com­mu­nity, the office man­age­ment com­mu­nity and the engi­neer­ing com­mu­nity. This group worked tire­lessly to under­stand the chal­lenges, iden­tify issues and work toward a fair assess­ment of all prop­er­ties within the community.

Like­wise, we met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the agri­cul­tural com­mu­nity to bet­ter under­stand and address their unique sit­u­a­tion. Lastly, we rou­tinely gath­ered with the other area juris­dic­tions to share ideas, con­cepts and for­mu­las as we tack­led the com­plex chal­lenges of devel­op­ing this utility fee.

For more infor­ma­tion, go to www.CleanWaterHoward.com

What can I do to help pro­tect our water resources?

Con­sider installing a rain gar­den or native land­scap­ing to help absorb stormwa­ter before it reaches a paved sur­face or storm drain.

Also opt for per­me­able pave­ment where pos­si­ble to allow water to fil­ter into the ground rather than run off of tra­di­tional paved surfaces.

The major­ity of land in Howard County is pri­vately owned, so man­age­ment prac­tices at indi­vid­ual homes and busi­nesses are crit­i­cal to these efforts. The fol­low­ing links pro­vide more infor­ma­tion about local and regional water resources and ways for indi­vid­u­als and busi­nesses to help improve and pro­tect our water resources.

Local and regional water resources:

Water Resources Ele­ment
Colum­bia Asso­ci­a­tion Water­shed Man­age­ment
Mary­land Trib­u­tary Strate­gies
Mary­land Streams, Rivers, Water­sheds, Coastal Bays, and Chesa­peake Bay
Mary­land Bay­Stat
NOAA Chesa­peake Bay Office
EPA Mid-Atlantic Water Quick Finder

READY — Restor­ing the Envi­ron­ment And Devel­op­ing Youth

In sum­mer 2012, PATH (Peo­ple Act­ing Together for Howard) and their part­ner the Alliance for the Chesa­peake Bay, with the finan­cial back­ing of a grant from Howard County Gov­ern­ment, hired and trained about 40 young adults who learned how to develop green solu­tions to stormwa­ter man­age­ment issues. Also work­ing with the Alliance were the Parks and Peo­ple Foun­da­tion and the Mary­land Sea Grant pro­gram. READY pro­gram mem­bers used their new knowl­edge to build facil­i­ties that reduced the storm runoff that car­ries sed­i­ment and pol­lu­tants to our streams and the Chesa­peake Bay. Check out this 3-minute video about the pro­gram.