The Carroll County Times' July 30 editorial, "Stormwater fee measure continues to spring leaks," unfortunately tarred a clean water program that really works well. Stormwater pollution, or polluted runoff, is the only increasing major source of nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and local waters. It is also the most expensive to clean up.
While political rhetoric and misinformation have plagued stormwater fee programs recently, it's way too soon to claim that these programs are somehow fatally flawed as a whole. Well-considered, well-run stormwater utilities have been a popular way for hundreds of local governments around the country to pay to reduce polluted runoff for more than a decade. In fact, Montgomery County was running a successful stormwater fee program for years before it became a hot-button issue in Maryland.
In the legal case at hand from Montgomery County, a judge decided that the way that county ran its program was improper because the county charged a fee to a property that already had stormwater management ponds. In making the decision, the judge used his own personal opinion as to how the law was meant to operate. The judge said that the fee had to be exactly proportional to the services the county was providing the individual property. He thereby ignored that there are program costs which also must be shared and absorbed, as well as practicalities of administering such an effort.
This view also ignores the public roads and common areas that access and serve individual properties, which also contribute to the polluted runoff problem and must be addressed by the county program. The county already credits back a portion of the fee for owners who self-manage their runoff, and could easily adjust its program to credit back more in these kinds of situations. An appeal should help clarify the law.
Montgomery runs a sound program, as do several other local jurisdictions. It's really premature to begin piling on and claiming "trouble from another direction." It's also too soon to begin getting worked up over a single circuit court judge's opinion, which may well be wrong.
Lee Epstein, director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Lands Program