MACo and county representatives testified with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) on legislation (HB 11) that would allow monies from the septic system account of the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) to be used to connect failing septic systems to wastewater treatment plants even if the systems were located outside of a priority funding area. Before the monies would be made available, any proposed project would have to go through a Smart Growth exception process to ensure that there were adequate protections against sprawl and the project was consistent with a county’s comprehensive plan and water and sewer master plan. The bill is a MACo 2014 legislative initiative and was sponsored by MDE as a departmental bill.
The bill hearing took place before the House Environmental Matters Committee on January 29. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp joined representatives from MDE at the witness table. Knapp offered two amendments that had been worked out with both MDE and the Maryland Department of Planning. The amendments broadened the types of wastewater treatment plants that could be considered under the exception process and clarified when areas with proposed projects would have to be amended into a county’s water and sewer master plan.
Several counties also testified in support of the bill with the proposed MACo amendments, including Kent County Planning and Stormwater Management Director Amy Moredock, Anne Arundel County Director of Public Works Chris Phipps, and Prince George’s County Environmental Health Division Manager Evelyn Hoban. Maryland Delegate Steven Arentz, Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Bob Simmons, and Queen Anne’s County Administrator Gregg Todd testified with respect to a proposed project on Kent Island. The Maryland Municipal League also testified in support of the bill.
While several other witnesses offered potential amendments, no one testified in opposition to the bill.