Last night Erik Michelsen, Administrator for Watershed Restoration an Preservation Programs for AA County, reviewed the county’s approach to managing storm water with 50 – 60 people in attendance at our Restore Rock Creek community meeting on 4/28/14. Erik began by reviewing how we arrived at the problem we are facing today with looming fines for not meeting water quality if we maintain the status quo and concluded his presentation which the AA County plans for Rock Creek
When Europeans arrived in North America, they began to exploit the natural resources. Beavers which are natural builders of dams, which spread out and slowed down water flow across the land were functionally extinct in our area by the 1700. In addition early settlers and farmers removed the trees from fields, drained and damed the rivers for sawmills and gristmills. This let to significant sedimentation and nutrient problems when rainstorm occurred. As early settlers were cutting down the trees, they also harvested oysters from the bay. This resulted in an imbalance between algae that thrives because of the excess nutrients and the lack of oysters to eat the algae. We also began modern development practices which focused on draining the land, preventing flooding and creating channels for the water to flow to our tidal areas rather than letting it soak through the ground and enter our stream more naturally. The focus was moving the water away from people and development with no consideration for the impact on water quality.
During the past decade, AACounty as been assessing the streams throughout the county watershed to figure out the best way to repair the historic damage done to our waterways. As you can see in Erik’s presentation, numerous locations have been identified that need attention. On slide 29 you will notice one of Rock Creeks main headwater streams is identified as a restoration project. This stream flows out of the Chesterfield Development and directly threatens public sewer infrastructure. Erik’s department will be requesting funding for this project in the 2015 budget that will need to be approved by the County Executive Steve Schuh.
The project to replace the Aeration (bubbler) system is in its design phase and is expected to be replaced in 2016 or 2017. The project is currently funded and is expected to be completed in 18 – 24 months. New compressors may be the 1st step in the project.
AACounty is interested in monitoring Rock Creek’s water quality for several reasons in the next few years. Specifically, the new Cox Creek Sewage Treatment facility will be coming online, new aerators will be installed in the creek and several other restorative projects are planned which makes Rock Creek an ideal “reference” stream to assess the effect of county projects aimed at reducing nutrients in the creek and the Bay. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, led by Dr. Lora Harris, will complete this sampling and analysis. Funding will come from AACounty if approved. This monitoring will assist in determining the benefit of the improvement to the Cox Creek Treatment Plants and the Aeration System on our water quality.
Restore Rock Creek considers all of the project to be a good use of our Stormwater Fee/Rain Tax and supports continue funding for these project through a dedicated fee/tax.
One last thing, look up Anne Arundel County Watershed Protection and Restoration Program on Facebook to follow their progress.