CENTREVILLE - Queen Anne’s County and Cecil County jointly filed a petition to appeal a stormwater permit recently issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). MDE issued the general Phase II National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (permit) on April 27, and identified 35 counties and municipalities, as requiring permit coverage beginning October 31, 2018. The permit seeks to impose further regulation and requirements for new stormwater systems that local governments and residents must construct and maintain. State regulators hold that Queen Anne’s County is subject to the permit on the basis of there being a small “urbanized area” extending along the Route 50 corridor from Kent Island to Grasonville where the census reported a population of 12,315.
Compliance with the permit in its present form would require a prohibitive increase in the annual capital budget to implement the prescribed stormwater program. Projects necessary to comply with required stormwater restoration currently range conservatively from $35,000 - $50,000 per acre. Based on treating 20-percent of the untreated impervious area in the urbanized area, preliminarily estimated at 190 acres, the overall new capital expense needed would be on the order of $10 million taxpayer dollars through 2025.
Other Maryland counties have voiced similar concerns with their existing Phase I Permit which preceded this Phase II initiative. Both the Frederick and Carroll counties’ permits are pending in the Maryland Court of Appeals which could affect Phase II permits locally. Cecil County’s existing permit requirements have been manageable, but the added restoration requirement would add millions more to their annual budget.
It is unfortunate that counties must file an appeal seeking to resolve matters contained in the permit. The county is working to improve the environment in many ways and has devoted considerable resources toward improving the natural environment for the benefit of the Chesapeake Bay, its residents, businesses and guests. Local water quality projects include the South Kent Island Sewer extension, stormwater management retrofits, wetland enhancements and numerous other water quality initiatives. The county strongly believes, however, that the extraordinary restoration and retrofit requirements prescribed by the permit are not financially or operationally practicable to fulfill.
Queen Anne’s County is also concerned about outstanding unresolved permit issues voiced by Frederick and Carroll counties. Since the Court will be hearing these similar permit arguments this fall, this is the opportune time for counties to make clear the difficulties imposed on local governments as a result of the new State Permit.