Monday, June 20, 2011

Stormwater Management Battle in Prince George's County

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, builders say a bill designed to reduce water pollution is cost-prohibitive and could lead to less development, while environmentalal groups argue that the legislation needs to be stronger to prevent flooding and protect streams and rivers. The Transportation, Housing and Environment committee is expected to vote on the nearly 180-page measure Monday, and the County Council hopes to pass the bill before it recesses in August.

Rushern Baker
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III proposed the legislation. Under the measure, anyone who wants to build redevelopment projects would have to prevent stormwater runoff from escaping the property at a rate of a half-inch each hour. Under the current regulation, builders are required to prevent less than a quarter-inch, or 20 percent, from escaping in that time frame. After five years, the requirement would increase to three-quarters of an inch or 75 percent. New developments would have to manage one inch of stormwater or 100 percent.

County officials believe the legislation addresses both the quantity of stormwater runoff that flows into rivers, streams and stormwater facilities, and the quality of the runoff. It requires developers to create filters and include natural landscaping in their plans.  Ineffective stormwater management can lead to flooded homes, polluted rivers and eroded sewer pipes.

Environmentalists want the regulations to be on par with Montgomery County’s. Developers there have to catch 2.7 inches of rainfall per hour when building on undeveloped land and one inch when building redeveloped projects. The Prince George’s proposal begins with the minimums set by the state for both new development and redevelopment.

As required by a bill the Maryland General Assembly passed in 2007, 17 counties have adopted new stormwater management regulations. Six counties, including Prince George’s, have pending legislation. (Wash Post, 6/20/2011)

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