Editor's Note: On Monday, the Anne Arundel County Council will vote on Bill 79-11, a bill introduced by Councilmen Dick Ladd (District 1) and Chris Trumbauer (District 6). The purpose of the bill is to create a fund that could be used to reduce stormwater runoff.
Erik Michelsen, executive director of the South River Federation, has written an open letter to the council, signed by 11 influential citizens. Here is the letter in its entirety:
Dear County Council Members,
We the undersigned urge you to pass Bill 79-11, “A Stormwater Management and Restoration Fund and Stormwater Management Charge.”
Anne Arundel County now finds itself subject to significantly enhanced federal requirements requiring it to take the necessary steps to clean up its waterways by 2025. The County Department of Public Works is in the final stages of developing a credible, comprehensive plan to achieve that goal. However, even the best laid plans are meaningless and ineffectual without the resources to implement them.
The Council’s passage of this bill is a signal to both the Maryland Department of the Environment and to the US Environmental Protection Agency that it is serious about meeting its clean water obligations, and that it recognizes that moving forward, the economic health of Anne Arundel County, a jurisdiction with 534 miles of shoreline, is tied to the health of its natural resources, and especially its rivers and creeks.
The poor water quality of Anne Arundel County’s streams, creeks, and rivers has been documented extensively by several of the most esteemed estuarine research centers in the country, and currently our collected western shore tributaries to the Chesapeake rank among the most polluted in the entire Bay region.
Every single one of the county’s major rivers and creeks is, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, impaired for multiple sources of pollution: The upper Patuxent and lower Patapsco are listed for biological and sediment impairments; the middle Patuxent is listed for biological, sediment, and nutrient impairments; the Little Patuxent is listed for biological, sediment, nutrient, and metal impairments; the lower Patuxent and West Chesapeake Bay (Herring Bay) are impaired for bacteria, sediment, biological, and nutrients; Bodkin Creek is impaired for biological, sediment, metals, and nutrients; the West, Rhode, South, Severn, and Magothy are all impaired for bacteria, toxics, biological, nutrients, and sediment; and Baltimore Harbor is impaired for bacteria, toxics, sediment, nutrients, biological, and metals. Each of these impairments can, in large part, be traced to uncontrolled stormwater runoff.
From rural south county, to the urban portions of Anne Arundel County surrounding Baltimore, our streams and creeks are uniformly decimated, supporting little, if any, biological activity, and conveying stormwater and sediments from developed surfaces throughout the county down to tidewater of our rivers and the Bay.
The revenue raised by this fee, and set aside in a protected fund, provides taxpayers with the confidence that the money will be spent responsibly, and can be used to leverage its own value many times over in terms of federal or state matching funds.
Anne Arundel County can, and should, be a leader in the creation of innovative jobs in the environmental industry, and a reliable source of funding for the engineering and construction work needed to achieve our clean water goals will catalyze that effort.
Our collective missions are to protect and preserve the waterways of Anne Arundel County, and we know that without a dedicated, significant funding stream to tackle the enormous backlog of restoration work that needs to be done, our streams, creeks, and rivers will not be able to recover. We urge your support of a quick passage of this bill so that we can move swiftly to the work of bringing back our creeks, rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay.
South River Federation, Edgewater, MD
Spa Creek Conservancy, Annapolis, MD
Severn Riverkeeper, Annapolis, MD
Alliance for Sustainable Communities, Edgewater, MD
Restore Rock Creek, Pasadena, MD
Advocates for Herring Bay
Severn River Association, Annapolis, MD
Anne Arundel Chapter of the League of Conservation Voters, Annapolis, MD
Halle van der Gaag
Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Magothy River Association, Severna Park, MD
Patuxent Riverkeeper, Upper Marlboro, MD
About this column: Environmental thoughts from the South River and Patuxent River Keepers.