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Daily Archives: January 26, 2013

The Chesapeake Watershed

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Two things this week reminded me of this amazing book by Ned Tillman.

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The first is the wellness hike and lecture series for volunteers at the Howard County Conservancy. Ned is the speaker, speaking on the geology of Mt. Pleasant this Tuesday the 29th at 11 am. For all volunteers, or someone really interested in becoming a volunteer, this is the final walk and lecture. Next month volunteer naturalist training begins for the spring field trips.

This lecture, by Ned, will be followed by lunch. Each of us volunteers is bringing some sort of dessert. The Conservancy staff is making us lunch. Truly, this type of volunteering is good for me, and bad for my diet.

The second reminder with respect to the health of the Chesapeake was seeing the story about the proposed stormwater management fee, a bill to be introduced at the February county council session. I have mixed feelings about this approach. If the money collected is actually used to clean up problems created. Those caused by over development by residential and commercial developers with minimal requirements to be responsible stewards of the land. If so, it would be a good thing.

But, with all the reimbursements, credits, bureaucracy involved, it probably won’t have much of an impact. Yee haw, plant a tree. Get a reimbursement. Buy a rain barrel, get a reimbursement. Really?

Bandaids aren’t going to solve this problem. I lived thirty years in Columbia. Face it. They used the streams as the run off collectors. Our old development was built in the 80s. The storm ponds overflowed every hard rain, into an overflow system that went right down into the streams below Rock Coast Road. The ponds weren’t large enough. Trade offs. Large enough storm water collection, or more houses. Guess what won?

Some unintentional issues I saw while reading this bill. Issues from a west county (don’t live in a development) perspective. The GIS data they will be using to assess us for our impervious surfaces doesn’t appear to be very accurate out here. For example, this is a “driveway” on my property. The data base shows about a hundred feet of driveway behind our home.

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Now, maybe twenty years ago it was a gravel drive back to the meadow but it has been reclaimed. And, the data doesn’t show my shed. Nor does it show most of the out buildings all over this part of the county. From a management standpoint, not having the data there means more labor to create it all, and to verify it. None of the homes in the new development up the road from us are even in the database. I know there are at least a dozen homes occupied up there. The database shows forest. It seems this could become a logistical nightmare.

Add to that the fact that all the runoff from my house and our driveway stays on our property. I use downspout extenders to water my flower gardens from roof runoff. The driveway drains into our back yard and is collected in a depressed area just past my vegetable garden surrounded by mature trees. The river runs there every time it rains or snow melts.

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This is the “river” passing the herb garden on its way to my vegetable garden. All the water from our driveway heads back to that depressed area in the meadow. It is a natural bowl. We have another one in the front corner of the property. Everything from the shared driveway ends up down there. More than half the time you can’t run the tractor there as the water collects under the 100 year old trees. Sixty feet tall. Permanent shade down there. Sometimes a real wetland.

There are no curbs. There are no drains. We live on a well. The nearest stream is over a half mile down the road, with eight homes, meadows and pine forests between us and the stream. But, if it makes a difference, I won’t squawk about paying $69.20 a year. That amount is based on our impervious footprint, with no credits or reimbursements, because our mitigation efforts to keep precious water on our land were already done.

We need to change lots of things we do to keep the Bay healthy. Stop pretending we live on the 18th green at Pebble Beach, and keep the chemicals off the grass. Take care of our cars and trucks so they don’t leak oil and fluids all over the streets where rain washes the debris right into the storm drains. Ultimately into the Bay.

Read Ned’s book sometime. It is really enlightening. But, can we do better when it comes to solving the stormwater management problem?