Bills: SB0036, SB0042, SB0588 Name: Stormwater Management

Bills: SB0036, SB0042, SB0588
Name: Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program – Repeal
Position: OPPOSE
March 3, 2015
Madame Chair and members of Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee,
Clean Water, Healthy Families, along with the organizations listed below, respectfully oppose the
passage of these bills, the intent of which is to repeal the Watershed Protection and Restoration
Program (HB987) of 2012. The general assembly passed HB987 in order to give the ten jurisdictions in
Maryland subject to pollution permitting under the Clean Water Act a means by which implement
programs and install projects to manage stormwater and reduce polluted runoff, the only major source
of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that is currently increasing. A fee on impervious surfaces
funds these projects and programs, and any revenue collected in this manner may only be used for
stormwater management and direct water quality improvement. These programs are created and
administered locally, with the funds placed in a local “lockbox” that cannot be raided to boost the
state or county general funds.
Opponents of this bill claim that the variability between jurisdictions is a weakness of the program – in
fact, the opposite is true. It is one of its strengths. HB987 gives the ten jurisdictions subject to the
legislation full control over their local programs, just as it has control over local property taxes, business
licensing, education, and public safety. When crafting the bill, the general assembly realized that
conditions in each county and the City of Baltimore were unique. As a result, local governments already
have all of the authorization they need adjust and modify their programs as they and their residents see
fit. Therefore concerns with the program are best addressed locally, not in the General Assembly.
In the short time since its passage, this policy has proven to be effective in the jurisdictions that have
implemented robust local programs in the spirit of the law. Most importantly, it has resulted in direct
local investment, boosting local economies and creating jobs for Marylanders in the design,
construction, and maintenance fields. Related industries like manufacturing, landscaping, and surveying
have also realized new prosperity. Prince George’s County recently entered into a 30-year $100 million
contract with a private company, Corvias Solutions, to manage its stormwater program. This first-of-itskind public-private-partnership will drive local economic development by using new and existing local
and minority-owned businesses as subcontractors. All told, these programs mean 5,000 new high and
low-skill jobs for Marylanders.
Besides bringing new jobs to our state, this policy protects the ones that are already here. The tourism,
seafood, and recreation industries are drivers of Maryland’s economy, and all three depend on a clean,
fishable, swimmable Chesapeake Bay. When runoff picks up lawn chemicals, herbicides, pet and
agricultural waste, motor oil, trash and litter, and other pollutants, it washes them into our streams and
rivers and eventually, they end up in the Bay. This causes water contact warnings and beach closures,
boil-water advisories, and seafood consumption advisories. The fewer pollutants in our waters, the
cleaner the waters off of Ocean City, Assateague Island, and Sandy Point; the cleaner our drinking water
supply; and the healthier our rockfish, blue crabs, and oysters.
Finally, this policy results in direct improvements to our communities and improves the quality-of-life
for Maryland residents. Besides largely-hidden infrastructure projects, polluted runoff fees pay for
things like tree planting, community greening, stream restoration, street sweeping, litter and trash
reduction programs, flood mitigation, rain gardens, and more. When these types of projects are put
place, communities see immediate benefits. Property values rise, crime decreases, and residents spend
more time outside, making them healthier and happier.
The state of Maryland, along with the ten jurisdictions subject to HB987, is responsible for meeting
federal water quality standards under the Clean Water Act by 2025. The Watershed Protection and
Restoration Program provides the policy framework and funding mechanism for complying with these
mandatory regulations. Political rhetoric aside, the assessment of a fee on impervious surfaces is good
public policy and sound economics – revenue collected through these means can be used only on water
quality improvements, just as the gas tax pays for highway construction and maintenance and sewer
charges pay for wastewater systems. The stormwater management fee allows local governments to use
scarce financial resources on things like education, social programs, and public safety instead of pipes,
trash interceptors, and retention ponds.
The local governments that have embraced this policy have seen real improvements in the short time
their local programs have been in place. Baltimore County has used stormwater fees to implement an
ambitious community reforestation effort and to approve several stream restoration projects. The City
of Baltimore has increased their street sweeping effort and has engaged the non-profit and faith
communities in contributing to reducing stormwater runoff and removing or treating impervious
surfaces. As mentioned, Prince George’s County has chosen to harness the efficiency of private industry
to manage its program, all but ensuring a high return on its investment. Anne Arundel County has used
revenue collected through the fee to begin to restore dozens of impaired and eroded streams and
rivers. These localities have only been able to do these things because of the framework established
by the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, and they have been able to do so without
raising property taxes or reducing funding to other critical programs. Most importantly, it gave them the
freedom to tailor their individual programs appropriately, rather than being subjected to a “one-sizefits-all” statewide mandate.
The repeal of HB987 would be detrimental to Maryland’s economy and hamper local job creation. It
would take away the policy mechanism that allows local governments to fund programs aimed at
reducing polluted runoff and complying with federal Clean Water Act rules, forcing them to raise
revenue in another manner or make cuts to critical programs. It would mean a decrease in the quality of
life and an increase in risk from flooding in our communities. It would put rockfish, blue crab, and oyster
fisheries at risk. Finally, it sets back the health of the Chesapeake Bay. For all of these reasons, we urge
the members of the committee to reject the passage of SB0036, SB0042, and SB0588.