Lower Shore Farmers & Officials Concerned Over Cost of Stormwater Regulations

A June 18 Daily Times article highlights concerns by farmers on the lower Eastern Shore over the application of stormwater mitigation regulations to certain agricultural practices, including the expiration of an exemption for poultry houses.  The regulations require that stormwater runoff be treated through environmental site design techniques, such as rain gardens, to the maximum extent practicable.  In the article, Wicomico County Council President and farmer Matt Holloway discusses the costs of the regulations on his hydroponic greenhouse and questions the equal application of the regulations on both urban and agricultural sites: 

[Council President Holloway] had a friend who is an engineer create a plan, received the approvals from Wicomico County and will soon begin construction on a rain garden. The engineering work cost him about $10,000, and Holloway estimates construction will cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

Since going through the process, Holloway, who doubles as president of the Wicomico County Council, has reached out to other local politicians and the Maryland Department of the Environment to re-examine the impact of state stormwater regulations that hadn’t necessarily been applied previously to local farmers.

“It’s overkill in an ag area, where nothing is going to direct this rainwater off my roof into a waterway,” he said. “We are being held to the same strict requirements to what a Walmart parking lot would be held in the city.”

Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) spokesman Jay Apperson defends the regulations in the article: 

Implementing stormwater regulations throughout all of Maryland, he said, is important in preventing soil erosion and improving water quality.

“Let’s not lose sight of the fact why we are all doing this: Stormwater runoff control is a critical part of reducing water pollution, it controls flooding and it’s a very important issue,” Apperson said.

The article discusses actions the State and county governments can take to potentially ease the burden on farmers but notes that significant costs will remain.  (Treatment of stormwater and septic system water pollution are the two most expensive sectors under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load requirement and implementation largely falls on county governments.)

But even if the permitting is made easier at the county level and MDE establishes templates for engineering, the cost will still remain in the thousands of dollars for the stormwater management efforts.