We’ve all driven over the American Legion Bridge and seen the muddy Potomac River after a rain storm. Ever wonder what it would take to reduce over 600,000 pounds of sediment pollution from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay each year (that’s about 22 dump truck’s full of dirt)? Probably not, huh? Well, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) engineers, planners, and contractors have been working hard to do just that. The DEP recently completed a $19.8 million Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund grant to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution entering the Bay.
The Trust Fund “allows Maryland to accelerate Bay restoration by focusing limited financial resources on the most efficient, cost-effective non-point source pollution control projects” said Gabe Cohee, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. While Montgomery County financed the planning and design of the pollution reduction projects, the Trust Fund grant contributed valuable construction financing.
The multi-year grant was awarded in 2012 to help meet the County’s new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit requirements. The grant included construction funding for 2.5 miles of stream restoration, 323 green infrastructure projects, 4 pond improvement projects, and a reforestation project with 1,057 trees. The majority of the project locations were in the Anacostia and Rock Creek watersheds, which have some of the highest pollution reduction requirements. A summary of DEP’s multi-faceted approach to watershed restoration through the $19.8 million grant is below.
The grant included 6 stream restoration projects totaling 2.5 miles of restoration work: Sherwood Forest, Woodlawn Stream, Batchellors Run, Hollywood Stream, and Breewood Tributary in Anacostia watershed and Donnybrook Stream in Rock Creek watershed. Stream restoration projects help to reduce active erosion from stream banks, protect property and infrastructure, and restore aquatic ecosystems. Mr. Vineyard, a homeowner who lives next to the Breewood stream restoration, completed in 2015, perhaps summarized the project best saying, “You brought the stream behind my house back to life.”
The grant provided construction funding for 16 green infrastructure or environmental site design project locations. At the 16 locations, 323 individual bioretention, rain garden, bioswales, tree box filter, porous pavement, and other small scale water quality projects were added to improve roadside, parking lot, and rooftop stormwater runoff. A resident near the Dennis Avenue Green Streets said, “Our property borders the garden and we receive comments on how nice it looks all the time…The water clears out within a day or two after a heavy rain. My kids love running out to watch it fill up and flow during a storm.” (F. G. Silver Spring, MD).
As part of the grant work, 4 pond retrofits were completed. The two Georgian Colonies pond retrofits and the Brookville Depot pond retrofit are located in the Rock Creek watershed. The Naples Manor pond retrofit is located in the Anacostia Watershed.
Lastly, the grant included a reforestation site, where 1,057 sycamore, red maple, pin oak, river birch, and other native trees were planted in a 6-acre area. Prior to restoration, the area near the Blue Marsh nature trail was mostly turf and a low lying channel that is typically wet after storm events. In the article “The Important Relationship between Forests and Water”, forests are described as amazing filters, serving as enormous sponges by collecting and filtering rainfall and releasing it slowly into streams. According to American Forests, they are the most effective land cover for maintenance of water quality.
Multiple partnerships assisted with completing all of these projects including local watershed groups, Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, private property owners, community leaders, Army Corps of Engineers, and other supporting Montgomery County Government Departments.
Caitlin Wall with the Potomac Conservancy added,
“The Stormwater Partners Network of Montgomery County congratulates DEP on the completion of this $19 million DNR grant. We are very proud of the county’s ongoing commitment to clean water and restoring our waterways. Our coalition members celebrate and support these types of projects throughout the county. Looking to the future, these types of restoration projects will be all the more important to address increasing flooding from climate change impacts in our neighborhoods and communities throughout Montgomery County.”
What’s next –
Montgomery County looks forward to continuing it’s partnership work to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries through installation of more cost effective pollution reduction projects. DEP’s stormwater facility inspection and maintenance program also works to make sure these stormwater facility improvements continue to function as they were designed.
For more information, the Final Grant Report, including Fact Sheets for each project and project maps, is available at here.