In 2012, Maryland enacted legislation that required the nine most populous counties, including Baltimore City, to develop a Watershed Protection and Restoration Program as well as a corresponding fund to help pay for the cost of the accelerated cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. This stormwater utility fee has brought with it a renewed sense of accountability for projects and improvements in the bay’s overall health. Taxpayers and lawmakers alike want to know where the money is being spent and what improvements can be expected given this unprecedented expenditure on environmental work.
Most jurisdictions turned to this fee program to help pay for the staggering amount of projects built into their respective Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits that are needed in order to meet clean up milestones established by the Environmental Protection Agency. These projects include stream and wetland restoration, stormwater management improvements, street sweeping programs, and tree plantings. KCI is currently supporting most of the Phase I MS4 jurisdictions with engineering, environmental and geospatial support services. In the last three years, we have seen the success that is possible when a concerted, multi-disciplined approach is applied to the complex issue of bay restoration.
An important aspect of project accountability is the outreach and communication to residents and local officials where these projects are located. By developing a comprehensive program for communication, as well as frequent and informative updates on projects, one can expect a much greater level of “buy in” from the communities impacted by construction. At the same time, we are working to educate local residents on the benefits of these projects that will come once the construction crews and heavy equipment leave.
Another consideration is proper siting, done in such a way that enhances the accessibility of the project as both an environmental benefit and educational tool. By siting projects on public lands, near schools and parks, we are giving residents an opportunity to see firsthand the benefits of these projects, further making the case that this is money well spent.
One such project was recently featured on a local radio program in the Baltimore area. Members of KCI’s Natural Resources Management Practice were interviewed by 88.1FM/WYPR’s Mary Rose Madden as part of a story on the city of Baltimore’s stormwater program and our recently completed Leakin Park Stream Restoration Project. Along with Baltimore City staff, KCI’s Colin Hill and I were on hand to answer questions regarding our role in the assessment, design, permitting and construction oversight of this stream stabilization and restoration project along an unnamed tributary to Gwynns Falls within the Park.
KCI worked with numerous city departments and divisions in developing the 1,700-linear-foot project to repair severe erosion caused by unchecked stormwater runoff. In addition to stream grading and stabilization, native vegetation was used to enhance and stabilize the bank and riparian areas within the project area. Various bioengineering techniques, such as live stakes, live poles and plugs as well as trees and shrubs and seeding mixes, were used to replicate native habitat zones found within the park.
The final product improved riparian buffers, reduced sediment loss and improved water quality. Trail enhancements were also incorporated into the project wherever possible such that the surrounding community could better enjoy the beauty of one of the city’s oldest and largest parks.
To learn more about the project, read the full story and listen to the audio clip on WYPR’s website.