Stormwater Summit in Shepherdstown

Originally appeared in Frederick News-Post.

With an American Bald Eagle standing sentry over its newly hatched eaglets, and spring finally coming to the region, a group of municipal leaders, environmental organizations and Chesapeake Bay Watershed stakeholders came to Shepherdstown earlier this month to discuss stormwater.

The National Conservation Training Center seemed an unlikely venue to talk urban stormwater control, rain overflow and city streets. But with organizations from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia sharing local solutions, NCTC was the perfect backdrop. In a new dynamic where stormwater remediation fees will no longer be mandated, following Governor Hogan’s attempt to repeal the fees, municipalities are still left to wrestle with the problem of untreated water run-off. The problem is being addressed across the Bay Watershed.

“This stormwater conference provided a tremendous opportunity to highlight successful approaches to improving stormwater management across the state of Maryland and the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said Jake Reilly, director of the Bay Program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. “We’re able to connect local elected officials and municipal government staff with leading experts and practitioners in stormwater management. This kind of networking and information-sharing is critical to ensuring that we meet our ambitious water quality goals in a sensible and cost-effective way.”

We spoke with experts from Salisbury, Maryland, York County, Pennsylvania and Staunton, and Norfolk, Virginia about the challenges they are facing.

Jacob Day, president of the Salisbury, Md. City Council, told of his city’s buy-in to reinforce a city bulkhead, hardscape riverwall and Riverwalk wall to avoid stormwater overflow into the Wicomico River. In fact, old outflow pipe infrastructure was causing stormwater to back-up and reverse flow into city streets. Tom Warman, commissioner of Spring Garden Township near York, Penn., discussed making the Bay relevant to people who live hundreds of miles away. Erik Curren, who is a city councilman in Staunton, Va., talked about the regentrification of his small town and how local leaders are really part of any community effort. They hear from voters in the schools and churches of these hometowns. Staunton also must balance urban renewal and private landowners willing to commit to new infrastructure improvements.

Best Management Practices (BMP) for treating and controlling urban stormwater pollution were shared among municipal leaders, Chesapeake Bay grassroots groups and even federal officials from the EPA. The latest street sweeper efforts in Norfolk, Va. were brought to the NCTC meeting by a streets and sanitation manager who has a master’s in biology and is an environmental engineer.

Justin Shafer said: “Research shows that traditional mechanical sweeping is not as effective. You have to measure downstream and see what you have really gotten in improvement. I would say we are seeing benefit as more communities get into doing” progressive sweeping.

The District of Columbia Department of Environment won five environmental awards for its efforts including innovative stream restoration:

“DDOE has developed a suite of programs to engage District residents and businesses to clean up local waterbodies,” said Peter Hill, planning and restoration branch chief. “Community involvement and a commitment to using the best available science and construction techniques will help us continue to create health waters.”

Yes, community buy-in and ensuring the best communications to voters and constituents were the real-world outcomes from the Stormwater Summit in Shepherdstown.

Lou Etgen of the Alliance for the Bay, who coordinates the retreat every year, complimented the participants for their involvement. His organization along with Chesapeake Stormwater Network and NFWF videotaped the best management practices winners and EPA government leaders so that proceedings could be shared post-event. Videos from these presentations will be hosted on CSN’s website: