Green Infrastructure

Cleaning and Greening with Meaning

The Stormwater Workgroup of the Choose Clean Water Coalition has done a lot of work over the past few years on “stormwater utilities” – or “stormwater fees”. Fees are a mechanism used by local governments to help cover the costs of fixing polluted runoff problems in urban and/or suburban areas.

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

A couple of years ago, the workgroup put together a Stormwater Utility Clearinghouse – effectively a spreadsheet listing every local government in the Chesapeake Bay watershed that had a stormwater fee, and included specific data about the fees; the fee structure, including exemptions; and contact information. The primary intent was to have a central document that other local governments could use to get ideas about efforts in their region to reduce stormwater runoff and meet clean water goals.

David Morgan, the water policy associate for the Coalition in 2016 and 2017, spent time refining the Clearinghouse and also sharing information with others across the country, including the Western Kentucky University which compiles a similar list stormwater utilities nationwide.

In order to improve information sharing with local government officials who might be interested in establishing a stormwater fee, a few members of the workgroup, Becky Hammer and Alisa Valderrama with Natural Resources Defense Council and David Morgan, sought to compile a helpful list of policy recommendations. This report, with a heavy emphasis on using green infrastructure to reduce stormwater pollution, was completed in June.  The “Paying for Stormwater Management in Chesapeake Bay Communities: Policy Recommendations” is now available for anyone to use.

The concise 15 page report provides a lot of basic information for anyone, or any community, interested in stormwater utilities. The report also contains a number of references to other sources for more detailed information in a number of areas. If you know of someone interested in learning about utilities, or if you want to spur your local government to consider something like this, feel free to share this report with them.

This report provides guidance for how to set a fee, how much it should be, who should pay it, who should be exempt or receive a credit, and other critical information.

Peter Marx is the federal affairs contractor with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

Five Coalition Members Receive Funding for Greet Street Projects to Manage Polluted Runoff

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Chesapeake Bay Trust, in partnership with Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, announced $727,500 in grants to be awarded to 5 Coalition members and 10 additional organizations through the Green Streets, Green Towns, Green Jobs Grant Initiative (G3). This program was created in 2011 to encourage local jurisdictions to use “green” techniques when pursuing necessary “gray” infrastructure projects, accomplishing two goals within one project. Coalition recipients include:

  1. Friends of the North Fork Shenandoah River, Virginia, $43,615
  2. Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore, $74,826
  3. American Rivers, Regional, $19,880
  4. West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc., Edgewater, Md., $30,000
  5. Parks & People Foundation, Baltimore, $75,000.

Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River plan to reduce polluted runoff and stabilize the streambank at the historic Edinburg Mill, in Edinburg, Virginia. A high visibility site for tourists and local residents alike, the Mill was recently renovated and houses the Shenandoah Valley Cultural Heritage Museum as well as meetings space. The Mill's large parking area drains directly into Stony Creek, a Class V trout stream and tributary of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Partners involved include the Center for Watershed Protection and Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, as well as the Town of Edinburg and the museum. 

American Rivers plans to create gateway gardens which both reduce polluted runoff and improve community value. The projects will leverage private-public partnerships between municipalities and businesses. Unfortunately, complex highway design and maintenance policies can hamper local initiatives. This project will analyze these challenges and work with state highway administrators to identify solutions to increase locally driven 'green' gateway projects, clean water and sustain communities. 

“These funds contribute to a sustainable green economy by supporting a continuous cycle of pollution prevention, water retention and job creation - leading to a better quality of life for the people who call these communities home,” said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. “By keeping rain water from coming into contact with pollution in the first place, green infrastructure improves the health of our waters, while effectively reducing flooding, and helping our communities adapt to the very real challenges of climate change.”

Projects include the removal of impervious concrete, the expansion of urban tree canopies, the creation of bioretention cells, and many other green infrastructure practices.

The G3 Grant Program, administered by the Chesapeake Bay Trust, helps support President Obama’s Executive Order for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Its purpose is to improve local, grassroots-level greening efforts by towns and communities in urbanized watersheds that reduce stormwater runoff through the creation of “green streets,” the increase in urban green spaces, and the reduction of impervious surfaces. This program is open to local governments, non-profit organizations, and neighborhood/community associations focused on green stormwater management retrofits with grants available up to $20,000 for research efforts, $30,000 for design, and $75,000 for implementation projects.

2015 Green Streets grant recipients include: 

  1. Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association, Baltimore, $10,795
  2. Friends of the North Fork Shenandoah River, Virginia, $43,615
  3. Baltimore Tree Trust, Baltimore, $35,000
  4. Second Chance, Inc., Baltimore, $30,000
  5. Blue Water Baltimore, Baltimore, $74,826
  6. Land and Cultural Preservation, Inc., Frederick, Md., $14,315    
  7. Community Action Commission, Pennsylvania, $70,000    
  8. City of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $60,000
  9. Old Goucher Community Association, Baltimore, $99,068            
  10. City of Staunton, Virginia, $75,000 
  11. American Rivers, Regional, $19,880
  12. West/Rhode Riverkeeper, Inc., Edgewater, Md., $30,000  
  13. Town of Edmonston, Edmonston, Md., $15,000
  14. Parks & People Foundation, Baltimore, $75,000
  15. Highlandtown Community Association, Baltimore, $75,000

For more information on the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns grant program, please visitwww.cbtrust.org/grants/g3.