CUMBERLAND — Two goals top the priority list for Allegany County’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay pollution diet.
Planners want to demonstrate the county’s progress in helping clean up the bay and avoid designation as a county needing stricter regulation to control pollutants feeding into the bay.
Stricter regulations could mean expensive storm water management projects, among other things.
Angie Patterson, a county land use and planning engineer, updated county commissioners at their work session last week on the county’s final draft of a Watershed Implementation Plan.
“We don’t have to do that and we don’t want to fall into that category,” Patterson said.
Patterson is in charge of coordinating Allegany County’s response to, and implementation of, the total daily maximum load (TDML) requirements issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Maryland Department of the Environment. She works with a committee including county and municipal officials along with other members.
A draft of the county’s plan was submitted in November and the county received comments back from Maryland Department of the Environment officials resulting in some minor changes to the plan. Patterson said some good news arrived in the form of deadlines being pushed back and a new calculation of credits the county can receive for progress in implementing the plan.
The deadline for full implementation was pushed back from 2020 to 2025, Patterson said. The county also has been doing a good bit of streams restoration, and the credits that county gets for that have increased.
“They’re good with our plan,” Patterson said. “We need to be proactive,” Patterson said.
TMDLs are “an estimate of the maximum amount of an impairing substance or stressor (pollutant) that a water body can assimilate without violating water quality standards,” according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.
Those numbers are being used to calculate the amount each county contributes to the pollutants entering the bay and provide a target number of how much the county must reduce of its pollutant output.
Most of the plan is based on what the county has been doing over the past few years.
The county has been partnering with various agencies for tree planting at the pace of five acres per year, stream buffering at the rate of eight acres per year and reclamation of mine lands through reforestation at a rate of 93 acres each year, along with other practices aimed at reducing pollution.
Because of the new information, the county will be able to pull back a bit on some of those programs. For instance, mine reclamations can now be reduced to 75 acres per year, Patterson said. Patterson told commissioners it was important to document “every little thing we do.”
Commissioners must approve a final plan to be sent to the state, which then prepares a statewide plan.
There are some concerns, the first being the reality that economic conditions may make it difficult to maintain the current pace of the county’s program.
A caveat in the plan states that commitments will be pursued as funding becomes available.
Contact Matthew Bieniek at email@example.com.