2014 Year in Review: Watershed Management

December 9, 2014
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The Department of Environmental Protection is mandated with protecting the local waters of the County, from tiny neighborhood creeks to the Potomac River. Our local waterways are vitally important to the environment and economy of Montgomery County as well as our public health. (Did you know the Potomac and Patuxent River are the source of our drinking water?) Further, Montgomery County is within the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed, so how we care for our streams here impacts the wildlife and economy of the Bay.

DEP’s Division of Watershed Management works to improve the health of our local waters through:

  • Outreach and Education
  • RainScapes
  • Stormwater Management
  • Stream Restoration

 

Outreach and Education

It was an active year in 2014 at DEP, especially for the outreach section. Staff participated or hosted over 100 events reaching out to well over 10,000 citizens. Highlights included the County Fair, which saw over 5,000 people travel through and ask questions at the DEP tent, and the 4th annual H2O Summit that brought in nearly 500 people and over 60 exhibitors focused on the topic of water quality. The County was even selected to receive a National Association of Counties Achievement Award for the event this year. Lastly, the Stream Steward volunteer program experienced a considerable jump in resident participation in 2014. The successful program saw a 63% increase in participation from the previous year.

Image of a County employee teaching a resident about rain barrels.

County Fair

 

This year marked the 3rd year of the Stream Stewards volunteer program which involved a total of 85 trained volunteers who donated over 700 service hours to the County. Combined with the volunteers from DEP’s biomonitoring program and the Chesapeake Bay Trust Conservation Corps, the collective dollar value of these volunteers to the County exceeded $80,000 in 2014.

DEP completed its pilot program focused on pet waste management and continued its anti-littering and watershed group capacity building programs in 2014.

  • Pet Waste Management – DEP worked with homeowner associations in the Rock Creek watershed by providing outreach and pet waste stations. Through this pilot project, over 1,600 lbs of pet waste was prevented from entering the watershed, while also educating the residents.
  • Anti-Littering Campaign – Outreach staff worked with IMPACT Silver Spring’s East County Parents Circle to organize a community cleanup event in August 2014. A total of 31 volunteers helped to remove 69 bags of recycling and trash totaling 449.42 pounds! This event was such a success that the Parents Circle expressed a desire to start a regular schedule of community cleanups. At the request of Parents Circle, Outreach staff trained 18 parents and students at the East County Community Center in October. From this training, 8 new volunteers were enrolled in the Stream Stewards program, and one Circle member was chosen to lead future cleanup events. The East County Parents Circle plans to organize 2 cleanups a year as a fun neighborhood activity that brings community members together and helps contribute to a clean and safe environment.
  • Capacity Building – DEP outreach staff continued to work with 8 of the county’s watershed groups to establish strategic plans and increased group capacity by holding several training workshops and offering member scholarships to the Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, WV. In conjunction with this work, collectively, there has been a 40% increase in County watershed group memberships, including 5 groups developing draft strategic plans, one group hiring a part-time executive director and 3 groups establishing boards of directors and either acquiring or working towards 501c3 status.

 

Image of Neighbors of Northwest Branch at cleanup event

Neighbors of Northwest Branch trash pickup

 

Several new initiatives were undertaken this year as well. For Earth Day, outreach staff worked with the Rock Creek Conservancy and Stream Stewards volunteers to achieve better stormwater awareness through a pilot storm drain art project. Volunteers painted storm drains at the Aspen Hill and Kensington Libraries where several new rain gardens were installed.

With the help of a Chesapeake Bay Trust Conservation Corps volunteer, two new programs were created at DEP. The Caching the Rain program was launched in June 2014 and is focused around the scavenger hunt activity of geocaching. The new interactive stormwater awareness program has attracted over 100 citizens since its launch, educating the participants about stormwater facilities like rain gardens and how they can prevent pollution to local waters.

The second program created in 2014 was Montgomery County’s very first FrogWatch USA Chapter. Forty-two people attended the initial indoor trainings and 26 individuals signed up to brave the darkness and monitor sites throughout the County to listen to frog and toad calls. With the help of these volunteers, 103 frog and toad observations were recorded in 2014.

 

Image of volunteers painting rain garden inlets

Painting storm drain art

 

RainScapes

RainScapes is DEP’s premier program for engaging residents in helping to reduce stormwater runoff.  County residents, businesses, nonprofits and religious institutions install stormwater management practices on their property in the form of rain gardens, conservation landscaping, green roofs, permeable pavement and more.  In return they receive a rebate off the cost of installation ($2,500 for residential properties and $10,000 for non-residential).

 

Graphic of the RainScapes Logo

 

Note: RainScapes data is collected on a fiscal year basis, so these statistics are from July 2013-June 2014.

  • RainScapes Rewards projects added runoff reduction using rain gardens and other RainScapes techniques. Staff processed 165 project applications, when, once fully installed, will reduce runoff from over 2 Impervious Acres.
  • Provided outreach and education to over 2,500 residents, business owners, and stakeholders at local and regional events.  More than 300 people attended RainScapes workshops for homeowners on making and installing rain barrels, conservation landscapes and rain gardens for residential and commercial/institutional settings.
  • Staff trained 40 local designers and contractors on RainScapes project requirements and installation and provided course content and instruction for new Montgomery College courses developed to provide training for LID/ RainScapes maintenance.
  • Staff was invited to speak at regional conferences to ecological designers and incentive program staff in Massachusetts and West Virginia and to engineering and design professionals at the Regional LID Symposium in Pennsylvania.
  • The RainScapes Neighborhood program continued to grow in the RainScapes Neighborhoods of Breewood, Sligo Park Hills, Wheaton Woods and Town of Chevy Chase where the stated goal is to have at least 30 percent of properties installing some form of stormwater control after a 5 year effort.  Fifty individual RainScapes Site Assessments for The Town of Chevy Chase and Somerset were completed as well as workshops for the communities.
  • Began a full-scale native plant cultivation project based on the success of a school pilot RainScapes ‘Growing Program’. Plants from the program were used in a variety of demonstration projects and as replacement plantings in Green Street Stormwater maintenance projects and provided local high school students with a project based green job experience.
  • Provided materials and technical support for demonstration curricular gardens in cooperation with the USGBC Green Apple day focused on runoff reduction and environmental improvement at 1 new school site that serves a diverse population of 400 students and their families. Fifty staff volunteers from the partnering company also were educated.

 

RainScapes Conservation Landscaping

RainScapes Conservation Landscaping

Watershed Restoration

A big part of how the County meets its requirements to reduce stormwater pollution (the MS4 Permit) is through restoring streams and installing low impact development and green streets.  In Fiscal Year 2013-2014, the Watershed Restoration section completed projects that mitigated 384 acres of impervious area and has an additional 129.8 acres in construction:

  • Anacostia Watershed: Green Streets, pavement removal, tree plantings along streams, stormwater outfall repairs, pond retrofits and stream restoration
  • Cabin John Creek Watershed: Stream restoration
  • Potomac Direct Watershed: Low impact development at schools, stream restoration and stormwater pond retrofits.
  • Rock Creek Watershed: Low impact development at government buildings,  pavement removal, new pond installation, pond retrofits and stream restoration
  • Seneca Creek Watershed: Low impact development at schools and stream restoration.

Plans are in design for projects mitigating 2,392 acres of impervious area.

 

Breewood Manor Green Streets

Breewood Manor Green Streets

 

Stormwater Facility Maintenance

The Stormwater Facility Maintenance Program oversees inspection and maintenance of all stormwater management (SWM) facilities in the County, ensuring that all are maintained properly.

During Fiscal Year 2014 (July 2013-June 2014), DEP staff and contractors performed inspections on 1,143 facilities. Over 3,500 inspections were conducted.

In addition, DEP oversaw maintenance of 1,871 SWM facilities, either via the structural maintenance program or by the private owner of the facility.

  • Maintenance of MS4 Restoration LID Projects: DEP also maintains roadway “rain gardens” and other low impact development (LID) stormwater features. These are usually smaller than the larger storm ponds and underground structures traditionally used. DEP oversaw the maintenance of 58 LID projects in FY 2014. A trained and dedicated crew performed the maintenance work (under the direction of County staff) to ensure consistency.
  • Inspection and Maintenance Outreach Activities: In FY14, the DEP continued to create multiple publications and hosted several presentations to increase understanding and awareness of Montgomery County stormwater facility maintenance. In addition, staff produced maintenance related publications for public events. County resident volunteers were also able to learn about the function of ponds during annual pond clean up events.
  • Engineering Accomplishments: DEP engineered projects include the completion of the Brookville Montgomery Auto Park Regional Pond and Brookville Bus Depot Pond retrofits, bringing the ponds to current regulatory standards and increasing their functionality. Additionally, designing for large mechanical sediment dredging projects at Gunners Lake and Lake Whetstone was completed and the lakes are set to be dredged in 2015.

 

 



2 comments on "2014 Year in Review: Watershed Management"

  1. Ronald D. Morgan says:

    How can I found out about the design and schedule for the storm water management ponds off of Redspire Drive (Poplar Run — Silver Spring 20906)?

    1. jjones says:

      Thank you for your comment to My Green Montgomery. DEP is currently not engaged at any work at that site, but the Department of Permitting Services might be. My recommendation is to submit an information request to http://permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov/DPS/online/eInformationRequest.aspx

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