Victory for Clean Water Funding in Montgomery County
On April 16, 2013, the Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a significant upgrade in the County's Water Quality Protection Charge. This charge has provided funding to restore local streams with rain gardens, tree plantings, and other methods to slow down, spread out, and soak in stormwater.
Since 2002, all of Montgomery County residents have been paying this "stormwater utility fee," but almost no other landowning group has been required to pay their fair share for the runoff they generate. This is despite the fact that commercial parking lots and institutional roofs—in addition to residential houses and driveways—also act as funnels for stormwater that causes millions of dollars in damages annually to streams, roadways, and sewer pipeline infrastructure.
The expansion to the County's Water Quality Protection Charge means that from now on almost all landowners will have to pay their fair share for the cleanup and restoration of our local streams, rivers, and lakes. The big exception is for government-owned properties—which were exempted from having to pay this charge for the impervious surfaces that each public agency owns or manages—an exemption we strongly opposed. Local and state government agencies have argued that this is a tax, not a fee, and therefore they should be exempt, but that is incorrect. This charge is a stormwater utility fee, and all who generate stormwater—regardless of what sector they are in—should be required to pay their fair share.
The Montgomery County Stormwater Partners—a network of local groups that ANS co-founded in 2005, has advocated for this expansion to the County's stormwater utility fee for the past eight years. The expansion of the stormwater fee to include virtually all landowners also includes the following provisions:
- fee reductions for landowners who retrofit their site to reduce runoff, such as with a tree planting;
- hardship provisions for low-income landowners;
- a cap on the fees that non-profit organizations must pay; and
- fee reductions for residential landowners for the next two years.
For more information, see: www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/bill/2013/20130416_34-12.pdf.