MACo Bay Restoration Fund Initiative Passes House

The House of Delegates voted out House Bill 11, one of MACo’s 2014 legislative initiatives, on March 12.   The bill, which passed the House on a vote of 135-1 with amendments supported by MACo, would  expand an existing “tool” within the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) that helps local governments reduce nitrogen pollution and improve water quality.  The bill was sponsored by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).  From MACo’s Senate testimony:

HB 11 would allow monies within the septic system account of the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) to be used to connect failing septic systems located outside of a priority funding area (PFA) to a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) with excess capacity. The bill also provides that BRF septic system account funds may be used to cover the cost of principal on debt issued for connecting failing septic systems to a WWTP and repeals a problematic requirement that a local government guarantee that any future connection to an existing WWTP within a PFA meets several specified BRF requirements.  …

The 2011 Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal recommended the expansion of BRF funding for WWTP hookups of failing septic systems outside of PFAs so long as the process included adequate protections against sprawl development. HB 11 provides such protections by requiring any proposed connections outside of a PFA to be in an area identified as a “public health area of concern” in a county’s water and sewer plan.  Such a classification would have to be approved by MDE as part of the applicable county’s water and sewer plan.

Additionally, any connection proposal outside of a PFA will go through a Smart Growth exception review process that will include input by various State agencies.  Projects must show that adequate sprawl protections are in place (such as easements, denied access lines, and lot consolidation measures) and that the project will not unduly impede funding access for individual septic system upgrades.

MDE will also have to develop regulations requiring public notice and consideration of the public health issues that will be addressed by the project, potential infill development, mitigation of new growth or sprawl, and the total net nitrogen reduction resulting from the project.  Finally, the bill includes an annual reporting requirement to [the House and Senate environmental committees].

HB 11 crossed over to the Senate on March 13 and is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on March 14.

MACo House Testimony on HB 11