Confused about stormwater? You’re not the only one.
It’s been more than six months since Maryland’s 10 largest jurisdictions were supposed to have a stormwater utility in place. We’ve reported extensively on which counties did it, which didn’t, which rolled theirs back and which ones have asked their legislators to put in bills nullifying the legislation (not going to happen).
But the criticism of the fee has come not only from local governments and “Rain Tax” Republicans. It’s also come from some environmentalists. They’re worried that paying the fee may absolve homeowners, so to speak. If the state is requiring you to spend $50 a year for stormwater mitigation, are you really going to feel like speanding $1000 to put in a rain garden, or $10,000 for a stormwater retention system?
But there are people who want to put in those practices, and they’re looking for a little bit of government help to get them there. This assistance is similar to the help the government already gives farmers for buffers, cover crops and other best-management practices that are not required but are helpful in reducing pollution. It’s a tall order to expect farmers to pay for these improvements on their own, and it’s also a tall order to expect a homeowner to spend thousands of dollars on a new green roof when a new tar one is a quarter of the price.
Plus, even if a homeowner wanted to put on such a roof, who could do it? Seven years ago, when I needed to replace my roof, I asked about green roofs and contractors looked at me like I’d gone mad.
On our last Midday on the Bay, we got calls from several homeowners who wanted to invest big money to do the right thing, but needed guidance. They wanted to know why they still had to pay the fee if they were willing to make such big investments. They wanted to know who could help them put in this stormwater infrastructure. And they wanted to know which practices would be most effective on their property.
We couldn’t answer all of those, but we found people who could. So today, Dan Rodricks will be doing a whole hour on stormwater. The show is at noon on WYPR, 88.1 in Baltimore, or you can listen online at www.wypr.org.
It is not a Midday on the Bay, so yours truly will not be on it. I’ll be on Thursday at the usual time, 1-2, to talk about some other things, which we will announce later.
On the show today: Halle Van Der Gaag, executive director of Blue Water Baltimore, whose organization has been conducting homeowner stormwater audits and installing rain barrels and rain gardens for the last several years; Adam Ortiz of Prince George’s County, which has been very assertive in offering incentives for homeowner-led initiatives; and MDE Secretary Bob Summers, who ought to be able to shed some light on the overall state goals, policies, and potential assistance for such practices.
I’ll be listening, and not just for professional reasons. I’m dreaming of a green screened-in porch, and I have no idea how to build it.