Environmentalists rally for clean water in Annapolis

Environmentalists came to Annapolis dressed in waders, life jackets and even a shark costume to rally for a package of bills moving through the House and Senate that would protect water quality.

"There is nothing more important than clean water," said Del. Tom Hucker, a Montgomery County Democrat who pushed legislation in the House for a storm water fee. "We are on the finish line."

This year environmentalists had four legislative goals: Mandate that counties create storm water fees to fund retrofitting impermeable surfaces like paved parking lots, curb sprawl and reduce nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay by limiting septic systems, increase to the flush tax to fund waste water plant upgrades, and tighten the rules for the types of septic systems allowed.

The sprawl reduction measure was included in Gov. Martin O'Malley's legislative package. It passed in the Senate Tuesday afternoon in a weakened form after a key provision allowing state control of some zoning was taken out.

"Every bill is the product of compromise," O'Malley said. "If you had told us two years ago this would have been the end result ... every advocate would have said this is a great outcome." The bill (SB236) moves next to the House, where few changes are expected.

The  storm water fees bill (HB987/SB614) and the flush tax (HB466/SB240) have both moved in the House, but are still awaiting Senate action. Environmentalists said they want to work the rules on the types of septic systems via administrative regulation.

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