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Officials fear Bay rules could
 impact local economies

Richard D. L. Fulton

(1/19) The Chesapeake Bay, once regarded by many as the gem of the Mid-Atlantic, has become to some as much of a money pit as it is as a source of crabs, fish, recreation and tourism to others.

The latest assault on county and municipal revenues has taken the form of new stormwater management regulations forced upon the them by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).

As far as impact on Frederick County and the municipalities contained therein, the new rules will require is retrofitting existing stormwater management systems (sewer systems) to meet new permitting requirements which predate 2002 by 20 percent.

Shannon Moore, acting manager, Frederick County Office of Sustainability and Environmental Resources, presented Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE)ís current "battle plan" to various representatives of local municipalities at the January 12 meeting of the Joint Meeting of the Board of County Commissioners and the Municipal Officials of Frederick County.

The potential cost to Frederick County could be as much as $2.35 billion by 2025, the current MDE-mandated implementation date, if total maximum daily load (TMDL) restrictions would be applied as well as the 20 percent retrofit.

TMDL refers to limits placed by the EPA on a number of pollutants generated by commercial and private enterprise which are held to adversely impact bay water quality. The TMDL was established as a result of the lawsuit filed against the federal agency by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others.

The projected cost to the municipalities has not yet been calculated, but Thurmont Mayor Martin Burns compared EPA/MDEís impending mandates to the old Western Native American "hunting" practice of rounding up the buffalo and driving them off a cliff.

"Weíre going down the a path of compliance like the buffalo going off the cliff, blindly," he said.

Although Frederick County is challenging some of the impending requirements, Moore briefed municipal representatives of what they should initially prepare for.

Specifically, she advised communities in the county to "make sure you have your stormwater system mapped, ranked by era (any portion dating prior to 2002 will be affected)," locate all drainage areas, "subtract any other permit holder outside of your boundary, (and) determine of the amount of acres of impervious area within your system."

Mayor Burns seemed unwilling to bow down without at least some resistance to the last unfunded mandates as well, and suggested an attorney attend any meetings with MDE on the proposed rules.

He was further incensed over the timing, even if the regulations would not take affect until 2025.

"Have we (municipalities) ever thought to try to collectively push back," he asked. "Itís not that I donít think saving the bay is a great thing to do, but in this economic climate youíre going to kill us. This is the worst thing for the economy."

The joint board took no formal action on the ongoing issue at the meeting.

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