WIP Creates Fiscal Burden For State and Counties

In today’s Gazette, an article lays out a relatively unreported component of the current debate over Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) — the staggering costs of their eventual implementation. From the article:

The state’s cleanup plan, or the “Watershed Implementation Plan,” is divided into two phases, the first of which was released in December.

In March 2010, Caroline and Anne Arundel counties were part of a pilot program to help determine pollution-reduction goals for the state’s Watershed Implementation Plan. In Anne Arundel County, the projected cost of instituting the plan was $2 billion, Knapp said.

“It’s a monumental investment,” said Matt Diehl, a spokesman for the county’s Department of Public Works. “These costs far exceed our current budget.”

The department’s overall budget is about $1 billion.

Diehl said Anne Arundel’s plans call for improvements to the septic system, an extension of the public sewer system and work to handle stormwater runoff. The wastewater treatments plants also are being upgraded to meet enhanced nitrogen-removal standards.

Caroline County was faced with a cost estimate of $70 million, almost twice its annual budget of $40 million, according to Kathleen Freeman, director of the county’s planning and codes department.

But Freeman said while the initial cost projection was daunting enough, MDE released new targets for pollution reduction this week that could triple or quadruple the cost.

“The targets have gone up fairly dramatically. Based on the old information, we were looking at $70 million,” Freeman said. “With the new numbers, we haven’t had a chance to review them thoroughly yet, but it would obviously be more expensive. No one wants to spend three or four times our county budget.”

For more Conduit Street coverage of the WIP policy and implementation debate, click here.

Read the full article here.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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