MDE Agrees To County Recommendations on Stormwater Permit Reforms

As previously reported on Conduit Street, MACo, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), and counties subject to a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permit have been engaging with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) on reforming the permitting process for stormwater restoration projects.  MDE responded to concerns raised by the county representatives in a September 14, 2015, letter.  In the letter MDE agreed to certain permit reform suggestions raised by the counties and to maintain an ongoing dialog with the counties:

The Department agrees that [the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s] establishment of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) in 2010 “changed the game” by establishing nutrient reduction goals for 2017 and 2025. In turn, Maryland developed Watershed Implementation Plans (“WIPs”) that subdivided nutrient reduction goals into four sectors: agriculture, wastewater treatment plants, urban stormwater and septic systems.  Counties and municipalities are key players in achieving reductions in the latter three sectors. For proposed projects that require MDE permits, it is MDE’s obligation to evaluate these proposals expeditiously to help counties in reaching those goals in a timely fashion. …

The Department embraces the concept of a separate streamlined track for the MS4 TMDL implementation project applications. Our goal is to shorten the review process to 90 days for most projects…. We agree it will be helpful to have a “checklist” of required information and that it will be helpful for MDE to clarify what factors are considered in approving or denying an application. …

The Department further agreed that no mitigation is required for a project that is intended to be “restorative” of water quality, habitat, aquatic resources, etc., provided the need for restoration is adequately documented. If a project is designed to provide “functional uplift”, then it can be construed as a “net gain”, rather than a “net loss” of resources/functions, and is essentially self-mitigating.

MDE also agreed to quarterly meetings with MACo members to discuss proposed projects and further reforms, such as pre-meetings early in the permit application process to identify potential issues and how to handle post project monitoring. MACo, COG, and the MS4 counties will continue to work with MDE to create reasonable and practical reforms to the stormwater restoration project permitting process.


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