Green Stormwater Infrastructure Pilot Program Provides Training to Baltimore City Job-Seekers

 

 

 

In a recent press release (2017-05-18) the Center for Watershed Protection announced the start of a new Clean Water Training Certificate Program that will provide qualifying job-seeking individuals with green stormwater infrastructure installation, maintenance, and inspection skills. The initial pilot for the Certificate Program, which runs from May 19 through June 16, will provide the training to ten Baltimore City residents who have been struggling to find a job. The program was funded by the Campbell Foundation, France-Merrick Foundation and Prince Charitable Trusts. From the press release:

“Not only will this program benefit the environment and the Baltimore City economy, it also will change the futures of these 10 individuals,” said Neely Law, Director of Education and Training, Center for Watershed Protection. “What’s more, they are satisfying a critical need in this industry: stormwater employers have significant hiring needs for skilled individuals, which they expect to be met by this training program.” …

The new training certificate program, developed by the Center for Watershed Protection, includes classroom learning, hands-on activities and field-based assessments to allow program participants to acquire core skills and knowledge in the construction, maintenance and inspection of green stormwater infrastructure. …

“This curriculum is equivalent to a few years of job training,” said Michael Peny, a stormwater industry professional of Angler Environmental, a Resource Environmental Solutions (RES) company. “The training provides the basic skills and knowledge an entry-level employee needs to have on the job site, and covers additional areas that will provide opportunities for advancement.”

Participants were selected through a rigorous application process. They were unemployed or underemployed at the time of enrollment and were selected for their drive, motivation and commitment to pursuing a career in stormwater management. Participants will acquire core skills and learn about construction, maintenance and inspection of green infrastructure stormwater best management practices that are relevant on any site, not just Maryland.

The three-week technical stormwater training is part of a comprehensive three-month workforce development program provided by Civic Works, which began May 2, to include essential skills training, workplace safety and on-the-job training. …

“Our goal is to expand the program across the U.S. and build a network of workforce development and training programs,” added Law. “The Clean Water Certificate training model has great potential to translate to other areas of stormwater management.”

Useful Links

Center for Watershed Protection Website

MACo Highlights County Needs to Climate Change Adaptation Working Group

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Maryland Municipal League (MML) Government Relations Director Candace Donoho outlined local government needs on climate change adaptation before the Maryland Commission on Climate Change’s Adaptation and Response Working Group on May 22. Knapp stressed that local governments had three key needs: (1) information; (2) resources; and (3) no new planning or land use mandates.

“Adaptation” is the term used to cover how governments, businesses, and citizens should respond to the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather, severe heat, flooding, and sea level rise. The Working Group is formulating recommendations to the Commission on what the State should provide to local governments for climate change adaption. Knapp and Donoho were asked to address the Working Group, which is chaired by Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton.

In his presentation, Knapp stated that State information on climate change adaptation should be accurate, practical, and avoid linkage with political agendas. He stressed that while the State, federal government, and other participating stakeholders maintained useful information for counties, the State could offer a “one step” webpage with links to all of these resources gathered into one place. Knapp also stressed the importance of local government adaptation case studies, with lessons learned from both good and bad outcomes. Knapp cited previous planning projections by the Coast Smart Council regarding sea level rise and Town of Crisfield in Somerset County.

Regarding resources, Knapp stated that State funding support for counties is critical. While acknowledging that State monies were limited, Knapp argued that county funding needs for adaptation planning were variable and funding could be targeted to assist those jurisdictions with the most need. Additionally, Knapp noted that State adaptation funding could also be targeted where rebuilding is already taking place if the additional funding could further strengthen adaptation. Knapp noted that the rebuilding of downtown Ellicott City in Howard County after massive flooding might have benefited from such funding.

Finally, Knapp said that MACo would oppose any new planning mandates regarding adaptation. Knapp stressed that counties were addressing climate change through a wide variety of policies and documents and not just their comprehensive plans.

Donoho’s comments were similar to Knapp’s, highlighting the need for flexibility given the vast size and capability differences among Maryland’s municipalities. Donoho also discussed the need for technical information and money. Donoho noted MML’s firm opposition to new or additional planning mandates, noting that local governments are still working to integrate planning mandates from previous years and that many adaptation policies are being carried out through other means than the comprehensive plan.

Both Knapp and Donoho stressed the need for ongoing communication by the State with MACo, MML, counties, and municipalities. Such communication could be done directly or through regional meetings and should include both elected and non-elected local officials.

After a question and answer period Belton thanked Knapp and Donoho for their information and pledged that the Working Group would work to actively communicate with local governments as it finalizes its recommendations to the Commission. The Working Group expressed interest in participating in MML’s fall conference and MACo’s winter conference to host forums on climate change adaptation.

Useful Links

Maryland Commission on Climate Change Webpage

 

Queen Anne’s County Commissioners Approve Land Preservation Funds

Using state grants and matching funds, Queen Anne’s County Commissioners voted May 9, to allocate about $500,000 of county earmarked funds for preservation assistance — which will result in a total of $2.5 million to preserve farmland in the county.

The Kent Island Bay Times reports,

The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation will match each county dollar with two state dollars to prevent, forever, farmland from being converted to residential or commercial use. Created by the General Assembly in 1977, the MALPF purchases agricultural preservation easements that forever restrict development on prime farmland and woodland and has permanently preserved land in Maryland.

Donna Landis-Smith of the Queen Anne’s County Soil Conservation District told the commissioners that the maximum they could invest was $1.3 million; however, the funds budgeted for MALPF were just shy of half of a million dollars. That half a million dollars of county funds currently earmarked for MALPF coverts to about $2.5 million. Smith said that there are eight properties in the county in the current easement cycle that was submitted to the state to participate in MALPF.

Commissioner Jim Moran said by using the budgeted amount — much of which comes from agricultural transfer taxes — the county could probably fund four or five of the applicants.

According to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation FY16 Annual Report, more than 300,000 acres statewide have permanently been preserved. Queen Anne’s County has 166 easements totaling 28,464 acres of preserved farmland and ranks third in the state for total acres preserved.

Read the full article for more information.

Post Op-Ed Supports Hogan’s Mid-West Power Plant Request to EPA

In a Washington Post op-ed (2017-05-12) environmental authors Richard Revesz and Jack Lienke supported Governor Larry Hogan’s request to  the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requiring certain coal plants in mid-western states to use their pollution-control technology during May through September.  As the op-ed notes, a significant amount of Maryland’s ozone pollution comes from out-of-state, with power plants being the main culprit. From the op-ed:

The problem isn’t that Maryland has failed to reduce ozone-forming emissions within its borders. The problem is that a great deal of Maryland’s ozone pollution — as much as 70 percent on some days — originates in other states. That’s why, last November, Maryland’s Department of the Environment formally petitioned the EPA to force 36 coal-fired power plant units in five upwind states — Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — to reduce their emissions of ozone-forming nitrogen oxides.

Maryland is legally entitled to this relief. The Clean Air Act explicitly requires states to ensure that no pollution sources in their jurisdiction “contribute significantly” to another state’s inability to meet federal air-quality standards. …

Furthermore, Maryland’s demands are far from burdensome. It doesn’t expect the power plants named in its petition to install expensive new pollution-control technology. The plants have the necessary equipment. Maryland just wants them to use it more often. Specifically, it wants the plants to operate emissions controls every day from May through September. Maryland knows that running controls this frequently is feasible; its own plants have been required to do so since 2015. …

[Even]Pruitt has conceded that, when a pollution problem crosses state lines, federal intervention is sometimes the only viable solution. In this case, coal plants in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia are hurting the people of Maryland, and Maryland’s elected officials do not have the power to stop them. Scott Pruitt does. He should use it.

ESLC Puts Large Chunk of Kent County Land into Conservation Easement

Staff from the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) and Maryland Environmental Trust (MET) signed 678 acres of Oldfield Point Farms, LLC. into a permanent conservation easement, forever protecting what land conservationists consider a “keystone Eastern Shore property” – meaning a large, intact farm visible from the road, containing waterfront property, and home to wildlife. The Starkey family, owners of Oldfield Point Farms, worked with ESLC and its partner organizations to make the easement a reality.

According to a press release,

The easement is a big win for preserving open space and prime agricultural land on the Eastern Shore. This success was made possible by the generosity of the Starkey family and the efforts of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, MET, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, MD State Highway Administration, and Kent County.

The keystone property has been considered a priority by ESLC for many years, as the number of large Eastern Shore farms that haven’t already been subdivided or preserved is relatively small. The conservation easement protects about one-half of Oldfield Point Farms from large scale development, and preserves the natural resources and prime farmland for the production of diversified grain and vegetable crops.

Also resulting from the easement, a portion of the property’s shoreline now provides public access on a scenic shoreline along one of the Eastern Shore’s most pristine waterways.

“Since 2007, MET, working in partnership with Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, has completed seven easements along the Byway protecting more than 2,500 acres of scenic lands”, adds Jared Parks, Conservation Easement Program Manager for Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. “In addition to protecting lands on the scenic byway, these efforts have also conserved important wildlife habitat and prime agricultural lands. We are very pleased to help protect this important property, further securing the scenic, rural, ecological and agricultural character of this landscape.”

It should be noted that this easement would not have been possible without funding allocated from Program Open Space – the state’s financial and technical assistance provided for the planning, acquisition, and/or development of recreation land or open space areas. ESLC also notes that without the tireless work of former Congressman, now ESLC Environmental Education Director, Wayne Gilchrest, to have federal money earmarked for the preservation of land along the National Scenic Byway, this environmental win may have not happened.

Visit the ESLC webpage for more information.

Baltimore City Council Casts Its Vote in Favor of Offshore Wind

Baltimore’s City Council voted 14-0 Monday evening to urge the Maryland Public Service Commission to approve the building of an offshore wind farm off the coast of Ocean City.

The PSC may choose to approve one, both, or neither of the project applications currently under review, but it must announce that decision by May 17.

According to the Baltimore Business Journal,

Skipjack Offshore Wind LLC and US Wind Inc. are the two developers competing to build out the two Wind Energy Areas that make up 80,000 acres just 10 miles from the Ocean City coastline. Each company has its own ideas about how to approach the building of what could be a major industry for Baltimore and the state of Maryland.

Monday’s request for state action shows Baltimore is in support of the projects because of the potential to bring thousands of manufacturing jobs to the area, generate economic activity and produce clean energy. Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton showed her support for the project at a rally outside City Hall Monday afternoon.

“If this commission does the right thing and helps out our city, it would mean so much to all of us,” Middleton said.

A spokesperson from the PSC said the commission has received a substantial amount of public feedback during the proceeding, which is given significant weight in the decision making process. They held two public hearings in March at which there was, “quite a bit of support,” for the projects.

Middleton said it does not matter to her which project the PSC approves. She is interested, however, in both developers’ promise to use a Baltimore port for offshore wind operations.

Sparrows Point, the 3,100-acre site once home to Bethlehem steel, has been identified by both the developers and industry experts as the most obvious choice for building out a port to handle the demand of the offshore wind industry.

City Council members John Bullock, Kristerfer Burnett, Shannon Sneed, Mary Pat Clarke, Zeke Cohen, Ryan Dorsey, Edward Reisinger and Bill Henry also showed their support at the rally. Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer abstained from the vote.

Mayor Catherine Pugh was not in attendance, however Middleton said the Mayor showed her support earlier that day during a lunch meeting.

Anthony McCarthy, director of communications for the mayor’s office, said in an email that Mayor Pugh has been a longtime supporter of alternative energy.

“We are watching the process unfold with a great deal of interest,” he said.

And now that the vote has passed, all anyone can do is wait for the May 17 decision, said Anne Havemann, general counsel for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the nonprofits that organized the rally.

Read the full article for more information.

Bay Continues Improvement, Receives “C” Grade On UMCES Annual Report Card

A Bay Journal article (2017-05-08) reported that the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) has given the health of the Chesapeake Bay for 2016 a “C” grade in its annual report card. The article noted that this is the fifth straight year the Chesapeake’s overall grade received a “C” from the UMCES report card, but that each year has shown continued improvement. The overall 2016 score of 54 percent represented a 1 percent increase over the 2015 score.

The UMCES Chesapeake Bay report card is based on 7 indicators: (1) dissolved oxygen; (2) nitrogen; (3) phosphorus; (4) chlorophyll a; (5) water clarity; (6) aquatic grasses; and (7) benthic community. These indicators are combined into an Overall Health Index, which is broken down by Bay region or major tributary. The report card also measures blue crab, bay anchovy, and striped bass populations, but these are not included in the formal score.

The 2016 report card found that Bay regions or tributaries earned grades ranging from a “D” (Elizabeth River and Patapsco/Back Rivers) to a “B” (Lower Bay). No regions or tributaries showed a decline – all either showed “no change” from last year or “significant improvement.”

 

Chesapeake Bay Report Card
Source: UMCES Website

From the report card:

Bay-wide, dissolved oxygen continues to be the best-scoring indicator. Dissolved oxygen scored 90% in 2016, an A. Total phosphorus strongly improved, scoring 82%, an A-, which is a positive development considering last year’s decline. While the total nitrogen score went down in 2016 to 55%, a C+, it is still improving in the long term. Water clarity scored 24%, a D-; chlorophyll a scored 35%, a D+; aquatic grasses scored 39%, a D+; all remaining the same as the previous year. Benthic community declined the most since 2015, scoring 54%, a C.

Total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and aquatic grasses all have significantly improving trends. Water clarity and chlorophyll a have significantly declining trends. Dissolved oxygen and benthic community show no significant change in health over time.

From the Bay Journal article:

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and officials from Maryland and the Environmental Protection Agency turned out for a press conference in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to celebrate the Bay’s progress, while cautioning that much more needs to be done.

“It gives us all who didn’t start out getting good grades hope,” Cardin said.

While not a huge improvement, the score is the second highest the Bay has earned since the annual assessments began in 1986, with only 2002 rating slightly higher. The scientist overseeing the report card said he takes heart from that, and the fact that the Bay’s health has held steady in recent years despite many pressures on it, both natural and man-made.

“I’m more optimistic than I’ve been in a long time,” said Bill Dennison, vice president for science applications at UMCES. “This seems to be sustained.” …

Mark Belton, Maryland’s natural resources secretary, welcomed the finding of improved fish abundance at the press conference, saying that “regardless of partisan politics and sniping” the Hogan administration is committed to restoring and sustaining the Bay’s fisheries. The administration has been criticized by environmentalists and Democratic lawmakers for firing a veteran crab fishery manager and for moving to open oyster sanctuaries in response to complaints from some watermen.

The article also noted the call by both Cardin and UMCES officials for maintaining the $73 million in federal funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration.

Useful Links

UMCES Chesapeake Bay Report Card 2016

UMCES Website

Governor Hogan Signs 20 Environmental Bills Into Law

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan took a bipartisan ride with state Democratic leaders in an electric car Thursday to a waterside bill-signing ceremony for environmental initiatives.

Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch smiled and posed for photographs before they stepped into an electric blue Hyundai. Hogan took the front passenger seat and a state trooper took the wheel.

According to WBAL,

“We’ve got bills that we’ve worked together, with both sides of the aisle, to protect the air, to protect the water and protect the soil, and we’re going to continue to do it,” Hogan said at the Annapolis City Dock, not far from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Here’s a look at some of the legislation:

ELECTRIC CARS

Maryland will increase investment in the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit program by more than 30 percent. The Charging Station Tax Rebate will be doubled, to a maximum of $4,000, and the electric car tax credit program will allow deductions for $100 per kWH of battery life per vehicle, up to the same maximum tax credit of $3,000.

CLEAN WATER COMMERCE

The state will allow up to $10 million each year of the Bay Restoration Fund to be used to pay for pollution reductions Maryland will use to meet the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Improvement Plan by 2025.

MARYLAND ENERGY INNOVATION INSTITUTE

A new institute at the University of Maryland will collaborate to develop and attract private investment and commercialize clean energy innovations.

HEALTHY SOILS

The Maryland Department of Agriculture will provide farmers with research, education, technical assistance and potential financial assistance to improve soil health on Maryland farms.

COWNOSE RAYS

A moratorium will be put in place on killing cownose rays in contests through July 1, 2019. The measure requires the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a fisheries management plan for the rays by Dec. 31, 2018.

OFFSHORE WIND

Hogan declined to taking a position on a decision the Maryland Public Service Commission is expected to make this month on two offshore wind proposals near Ocean City. The PSC could enable Maryland to host the nation’s largest offshore windfarm.

“The law was passed a while ago,” Hogan told reporters after the ceremony, referring to the 2013 Maryland law creating a regulatory framework for offshore wind. “It’s finally come to fruition, but that’s a decision that the independent body – the PSC – has to make, and we’re following it very closely but don’t have any role in the process.”

Read the full article for more information.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins Resigning From 1000 Friends of Maryland

Dru Head shot 3-13
Dru Schmidt-Perkins (Source: 1000 Friends of Maryland)

A 1000 Friends of Maryland press release (2017-05-04) announced the resignation of 1000 Friends’ long-standing Executive Director, Dru-Schmidt Perkins. Schmidt-Perkins will step down in November. From the press release:

Nearly two decades ago, Dru Schmidt-Perkins became the first staff person and Executive Director for 1000 Friends of Maryland after serving on the original all-volunteer coalition for a number of years. Today she announced she is stepping down.

Over her tenure, the organization has had a number of accomplishments, including building strong coalitions at county level to impact future development patterns, creating new programs like the historic tax credit and Rural Legacy, improving programs to clean up toxic brownfields, reducing number of major new subdivisions in rural areas, and ensuring that dedicated funds are actually spent on Program Open Space.

“I made a commitment to stay for two years and now — 19 incredible years later — I have decided it’s time to try something new,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, 1000 Friends President and CEO.

1000 Friends of Maryland was formed in 1994 to bring together business, developers, environmentalists, transportation advocates, community leaders, architects, and planners to work toward development patterns in Maryland that are economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable. In 1998 the organization hired its first staff and ever since has been a strong voice for smarter growth in Maryland, advocating at the state and local levels. During this time, Schmidt-Perkins became a well-known and respected presence in Annapolis during the Maryland legislative session.

“It has been an honor to be part of the creation of a new organization and movement,” continued Schmidt-Perkins. “Our work to improve land use and development policy has been challenging and exciting, and it has been rewarded with victories large and small. I think back to our start in a single room rented from AIA Baltimore, and now we have a statewide effort operating out of our beautiful brownstone building in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood.”  …

“We thank Dru for her many successful years at the helm of this organization,” said [Chairman of the Board Dale] Sams.  “Dru’s vision, leadership, commitment, dry sense of humor, and boundless energy will be sorely missed at 1000 Friends.”

Schmidt-Perkins says she looks forward to watching the organization continue to have many wins.  “The staff are the finest anywhere and I have been lucky to work with such smart and fun women.”

The press release noted that the Board of Directors will begin the search for a new Executive Director in late spring.

 

Your Map to the Bay TMDL Mid-Point Assessment & Phase III WIPs

The Chesapeake Bay Program has prepared a timeline and explanatory sheet highlighting how the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) mid-point assessment and development of the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) will work. The sheet includes key dates for local government engagement. The Bay Program will update the sheet as necessary.

The mid-point assessment is a review of progress the Bay watershed states and local governments have made to date in meeting their TMDL restoration goals. Additionally, the assessment will review the efficacy of the current version of the Bay model and potentially propose changes. Changes to the model could result in new nutrient and sediment reduction targets for both states and local governments as the TMDL enters its final phase. All TMDL goals must be met by 2025.

The assessment will also figure heavily in the development of state and local Phase III WIPs. The Phase III WIPs will chart the nutrient and sediment actions governments will take during the final years of the TMDL. Most of the “low hanging fruit” in Bay restoration, such as upgrading wastewater treatment plants to enhanced nutrient removal, have already been performed leaving more difficult and costly reduction measures for Phase III.

With the conclusion of the mid-point assessment and development of the Phase III WIPs, 2018 will be a critical year for the Bay TMDL. MACo has long advocated for certainty in the Bay TMDL nutrient and sediment targets and for maximum flexibility in meeting these goals. MACo will continue to support cost-effective methods to achieve realistic outcomes  as the Bay TMDL enters the “home stretch.”

Useful Links

Chesapeake Bay Program

Prior Conduit Street Coverage of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL