The Prince George’s County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (TIEE) Committee unanimously voted on June 27 to recommend approval of a resolution that would determine how stormwater runoff will be treated and paid for during the next two years.
Under the terms of the county’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Financial Assurance Plan (FAP) – required by state law to demonstrate the county’s ability to fund its stormwater pollution efforts – the county expects to pay about $67 million over the next two fiscal years treating more than 1,500 acres of impervious surfaces. Those land surfaces do not allow water to penetrate into the soil.
In 2015, the county, along with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), determined there were more than 30,000 acres of untreated impervious surfaces in the county and laid out a plan to restore 20% of those surfaces through a five-year National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit, according to council documents.
While that permit has expired and has been administratively extended, Joseph Gill, the acting director of the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, said the county is in negotiations with the MDE for a new five-year permit.
Councilmember Dannielle Glaros (District 3) said a changing climate should be considered when determining a plan for the next five years.
“As we’re seeing more intense storms, as we’re seeing all of this change that we are experiencing – and it is very real and it’s just increasing, and our climate is changing here in the state of Maryland, it’s definitely changing in Prince George’s County,” Glaros said. “So if this tool that we sort of envisioned back in 2015 can also be thought of as a tool that helps us better prepare the county, our residents, our businesses for the future in terms of the changes in climate, I think that’s really important.”
Along with acknowledging changing climate concerns, District 8 Councilmember Monique Anderson-Walker called for a “separation firewall” between developers and stormwater management entities to help limit the number of impervious surfaces throughout the county.
“There’s too much problematic relationship within that,” she said. “Because sometimes, and people – maybe selfish desire – they have too much influence on those people who are controlling stormwater management.”
Gill said the issue may not be “irresponsible development,” but rather the rules of development that were put in place two decades ago. He said they need to revisit those rules and determine whether they will be effective for the next 20 years.
“We need to be looking several decades out in terms of changing patterns of climate,” Gill said. “There’s too much information on this – there’s too much information that tells us that we’re in a trend. And the trend is not a good trend and we need to begin to address that.”
The Environmental Protection Agency established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) in 2010. It is also referred to as a “pollution diet” to restore clean water to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In 2013, the county passed the Clean Water Act Fee, to help address stormwater pollution.
The county has also earmarked $201.7 million towards the Stormwater Management Fund, the Solid Waste Management Fund and the Local Watershed Protection and Restoration Fund in next year’s budget. Prince George’s County is expected to invest more than $1 billion over the next 20 years to improve water quality.
Although the meeting was focused on the resolution for the county’s FAP, at times the conversation went beyond the county and touched on larger climate issues. Glaros pointed out the interconnectivity of such issues and how the county needs to look at climate issues more in-depth moving forward.
“This whole effort was highly opposed at one point in time,” Glaros said. “This was the whole conversation about the ‘rain tax,’ The governor who currently sits in (an) office, his people and his main supporters, adamantly opposed this type of work. And we have a president who doesn’t think much I would say, of the environment.”
“So we are operating, I think, a program in an interesting context where I think some of these questions are challenging to answer because, at the end of the day, we probably do want more guidance than we have today,” she added.