For Immediate Release, June 8, 2016
Costello, Kraft, & Council Push for Stormwater Action
On April, 18th 2016, Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello (11th District) introduced two City Council resolutions that call for public hearings, one to collect information on how the City is spending its stormwater management fee, the other to investigate ways to move stormwater-related projects forward as quickly as possible. A public hearing on this topic will take place today (June 8, at 5pm) in the City Council Chambers on the fourth floor of City Hall, and will be chaired by Councilman Jim Kraft of the Judiciary & Legislative Investigations Committee.
We need action to attack this problem more urgently than ever before. The Baltimore Harbor and most of its tributaries flunked the recently released Healthy Harbor Report Card. Polluted run-off has played a major role in worsening our water quality. It has overwhelmed our waste water system and contributed to major sewer overflows into our streets, streams, and even people’s homes.
Councilman Costello hopes that these hearings will prompt the current Administration, and Administrations that follow, to prioritize the active use of these funds to improve the environment and economy of the city. “This is an important step to improve the accountability, transparency and expediency of use of tax payer funds” said Costello.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Maryland gave the most populated jurisdictions in Maryland a mandate to accelerate additional, direct restoration of the environment – particularly, to protect the Chesapeake Bay. In July 2013, the City implemented and began to collect the Stormwater Management Fee. The fee funds restoration efforts intended to dramatically improve the quality of our water, reduce the burden on our aging infrastructure, and contribute to efforts to make Baltimore neighborhoods cleaner and healthier.
The Baltimore City Department of Public Works stated in its Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2015 (July 1, 2014 – June 30, 2015) that the majority of stormwater projects would begin construction in 2018 and beyond.
Councilman Costello believes that the Stormwater Enterprise Fund will prove more valuable to Baltimore City’s environment and economy if projects begin sooner rather than later. The City government should not collect fees from ratepayers if it is not ready to immediately fund shovel-ready projects.
Councilman Jim Kraft has championed efforts to improve Baltimore’s environment for years; his leadership helped to create the initial stormwater legislation. “We know that managing stormwater pollution through green infrastructure and installing storm drain inlets that remove trash, make our communities more viable and attractive places for people to live and work” said Kraft.
In the informational hearings, the Council will ask the Departments of Public Works and Finance to report on the collection, current use, and planned use of Stormwater Enterprise Fund fees, the volume and value of participation credits and variances accepted to date and, to best determine ways to expedite project permitting processes.
The Council will also ask representatives of the Departments of Public Works and Finance to appear at an investigative hearing to report on how City government can use funds collected as effectively and efficiently as possible through projects to improve water quality and make our neighborhoods healthier.
Baltimoreans have learned that when worthy infrastructure projects are delayed, adverse impact is likely to follow. If the City government collects fees from its citizens, businesses, and nonprofits, it has a duty to those stakeholders to use the money for its intended purpose in a timely fashion.