TESTIMONY TO THE SENATE EDUCATION, HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
SB 5 Stormwater Management - Watershed Protection and Restoration Program - Repeal
BY: Susan Cochran, President
DATE: January 28, 2014
The League of Women Voters of Maryland opposes the repeal of the stormwater management law.
Keeping this law intact is a top legislative priority of the League agreed upon by the local Leagues in the 17 counties in Maryland where they are established. Nationwide, we support sound efforts to reach the goals of the Clean Water Act of 1972, which the national League advocated for at that time and continues to support.
The effort to clean the Bay has become an organized effort by six states and the District of Columbia, with a mandate to reduce the nutrients and sediment going into the Bay from urban and suburban runoff--the TMDL.
Most of the 10 jurisdictions with the water management fund mandate from the state have worked hard to formulate a plan for the required fee to fit their jurisdiction, in the parameters of the law. This approach is sound.
We ask for an unfavorable report from the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Senate Bill 5.
Attached is additional background on the efforts to clean up the Bay and the environmental positions of the League of Women Voters.
Restoring the Bay
Fulfilling the Bay TMDLs with Plans on the Local Level
By Susan Cochran, President, League of Women Voters of Maryland
The Stormwater Management - Watershed Protection and Restoration Program became law in 2012. Its purpose is to reach goals for a healthy Chesapeake Bay through the TMDL (Total Daily Maximum Load) program. TMDL limits the amount of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) and sediments that can reach the Bay through storm water runoff from our city and suburban impervious surfaces. These sources of pollution are referred to as non-point pollution.
The law specifically requires the state’s ten largest municipalities or counties to collect a fee related to the impervious surface of a property and set up a restricted fund for stormwater management - protection, remediation and restoration. These ten already were subject to a municipal storm water permit administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment adhering to requirements by the EPA first issued in 1990.
Recently, Maryland and the other six jurisdictions in the Bay watershed area agreed with EPA to adhere to a “pollution diet” to reach their goal of a Bay irreversibly on the way to recovery by 2025.
The “diet” or program for improvement is called the BayTMDL. That stands for Total Maximum Daily Load of the three pollutants that can render the Bay lifeless—nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. The Stormwater Bill is part of an important strategy to accomplish the so far elusive goal of substantially improving the Bay and reaching the goals of the Clean Water Act of 1972 for a body of water in which one can swim and fish.
The Maryland jurisdictions that are subject to the law are Baltimore City, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Montgomery County already had a stormwater fee in place. Frederick County set a flat fee of 1 cent per property and Carroll County declined to set a fee, saying it would designate an item already in their budget as the watershed protection and restoration fund.
Anne Arundel County has one of the most robust funds. County Councilman Chris Trumbauer credits the government’s success to immediately reaching out to the County Executive and gathering a group of community leaders to assess what a reasonable fee structure would be. The group included Republicans, Democrats, developers, environmentalists, the Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce and householders, some county councilmen and representatives from the Department of Public Works. They agreed on the essentials of a bill to present to the County Council and lent their support to its passage. Key councilmen were sponsors of the bill. The bill was amended and passed 4-3. Upon the new County Executive’s veto, the bill was passed by an override of 5-2. Some of the County Executive’s objections were met in subsequent legislation after the July 1 state deadline. All in all, the effort was pronounced a success. The Department of Public Works is well prepared to put the funds to a very constructive use.
The restoration effort of the Bay was given a great boost in the last four years by Federal action to lead and help with some funds through the EPA.
Calling the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure, President Obama issued an Executive Order on May 12, 2009, to direct the formation of a vigorous program of Bay protection and restoration, with the EPA as the lead agency, in order to meet the goals of the Clean Water Act of 1972 for swimmable, fishable waters. The order was followed by Congressional action to direct funds to the effort to clean the Chesapeake Bay.
The effort to make the Bay and its tributaries clean enough to foster aquatic life and provide swimmable waters is at least 30 years old. The Chesapeake Bay Commission was started in 1983 with the participation of Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Jacques Cousteau spoke at the first big public conference arranged by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed that year with Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia and the EPA. The Agreement established the Chesapeake Executive Council of designees of those states and the EPA. The Chesapeake Bay Program was instituted. In the ensuing decades more ambitious agreements were signed as an enthusiastic and anxious public demanded action, more states joined in, and research helped develop improved approaches.
In the year 2000, an expanded effort was instituted with the agreement of all six states in the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia who set up goals in the Chesapeake2000 Agreement. Nevertheless, discernible progress was slow and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has given the Bay Ds and Fs for health for the past decade.
The great growth of urban and suburban development around the watershed in the last 50 years coincides with dramatic harm to the Bay, say scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Measures to improve the Bay are pushing against the tide of this development.
New or refined goals for improvement of the Bay are being drawn up in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement of 2013 that is now in draft form. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed comprises 64,000 square miles, and includes West Virginia, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, and New York. It is home to over 17 million people. The Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the country and involves an economy valued at over one trillion dollars.
The importance of a healthy bay to our nation cannot be overestimated.
LWV Positions on Environment--Water
The League supports:
- water resource programs and policies that reflect the interrelationships of water quality, water quantity, ground-water and surface water and that address the potential depletion or pollution of water supplies;
- measures to reduce water pollution from direct point-source discharges and from indirect nonpoint sources;
- policies to achieve water quality essential for maintaining species populations and diversity, including measures to protect lakes, estuaries, wetlands and in-stream flows;
- stringent controls to protect the quality of current and potential drinking-water supplies, including protection of watersheds for surface supplies and of recharge areas for groundwater.