This past December, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works (DPW) announced that it had received a $58,000 grant. The award came from the Watershed Assistance Two-Year Milestone Support grant program, a partnership between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The funds from the grant will be used for development of Environmental Site Design practices.
The grant will further the progress that has been made following the 2012 implementation of the Stormwater Fee. Called the “rain tax” by its critics, the fee is paid by both business and homeowners throughout Maryland.
The tax money goes towards better stormwater management, which helps lessen pollutants into the city’s waterways, and in turn, the Chesapeake Bay. In the city, the amount paid is based on the area of impervious surfaces—such as driveways, sidewalks, and rooftops— on each property.
There are always water improvement projects visible throughout the city. Just four blocks from my house in Hampden, for example, Wyman Park has a sign about sewage control. These projects however, with their impressive signs and noisy earth-turning equipment, are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to environmental work. For every one of these projects, there is a massive amount of planning that must take place. The grant will be used for these developments.
The goals sought after using the grant are a part of the MS4 Water Implementation Plan (WIP) which, in Dec. 2013, promised to address at least 20% of the city’s impervious surfaces. As stated in the MS4 WIP, which was released to the public last month, 45% of the city is impervious, and the majority of its storm drain infrastructure is over a century old.
In the case of the Watershed- Assistance grant, the funds are purely for development, so the grant’s effects will not be evident to city residents. Jeffrey Raymond, Division Chief of Communications and Community Affairs at DPW, reiterated the behind-the-scenes nature of the work that will be done with the award.
“The grant is to develop design standards, not [to fund] specific projects,” Raymond explained.
There are a number of Environmental Site Design practices that may be developed using the grant money. Street bio retention, for example, involves using plant matter and soil around storm drains to catch contaminants and sedimentation. Another example is rain garden bumpouts, a curbed area that swells into the road, working to catch rain water and calm traffic.
Though the effects of the grant may only be felt in a few years time, there are always ways to help improve the watershed. Raymond recommends that UB students look into Blue Water Baltimore, which is always accepting volunteers for tree planting, stream monitoring, trash clean up, and many other areas of need.
Visit their website for more information: www. bluewaterbaltimore.org