State Considering Two Potential “Aligning for Growth” Policies

The Maryland Department of the Environment’s Water Quality Trading Advisory Committee will be considering two potential options for offsetting water pollution generated by new growth under the State’s forthcoming “Aligning for Growth” (AFG) policy. Maryland is requiring to create an AFG policy as part of its Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. MACo will be seeking feedback on the two options shortly. The options are largely conceptual and significant details would need to be developed.

Both options would only apply to pollution generated by new onsite sewage disposal systems (OSDS/septic systems) and stormwater runoff as wastewater treatment plant pollution loads already include a growth component. Both options also envision reallocating some water pollution reductions based on other activities (closing of industries, sewer extensions, farmland conversion, or reducing allocations to other sectors) to new growth. Providing an allocation to new growth essentially means you do not have to specifically offset the additional water pollution generated by that new growth as long as the pollution generated by the new growth does not exceed the allocation.

Option 1: OSDS/Forest Conversion Option

Option 1 is essentially a hybrid of two recommendations from the 2013 workgroup that attempted to establish an AFG policy.

(1) For septic systems, there would be no growth allocation granted, meaning that all new septic system growth would have to be offset. A key question is whether this allocation prohibition should apply everywhere within certain areas, such as the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area or the Tier III and/or IV septic tier maps.

(2) For stormwater pollution, if the new development is occurring on forest, the project will have to offset any additional stormwater load in excess of the original forest load. For everywhere else, there would be a post-development allocation granted, meaning no offsets are required.

Option 2: Phase I & II WIP Per Capita Loading Option

Option 2 would use the Per Capita Loading Areas mapped out in the WIPs. These areas indicate high, moderate, and low pollution loading to the Chesapeake Bay and are mapped out by county and municipality.

This option would provide allocation to each jurisdiction based on the low per capita loading rates times the 2025 projected growth rate in the WIPs. The option could allow jurisdictions to make the choices of when to award allocations or require offsets. Additionally, the option must be clarified as to whether the policy would allow allocation to be awarded only to low per capita areas only or to all areas. One further challenge is that the loading maps will be changed under the pending Phase 6 Bay Model and those maps are not yet available.

MACo will be seeking county input on these options prior to the Sept 18 meeting of the Advisory Committee. For further information please contact Les Knapp at 410.269.0043 or lknapp@mdcounties.org.

Useful Links

Conduit Street Article on Aligning for Growth and Nutrient Credit Trading History

Prior Conduit Street Coverage on Aligning for Growth