By E.B Fergurson III, The Capital
July 25, 2014
By E.B. Furgurson
Erik Michelsen stands next to one of the county’s streambed restoration projects at Wilelinor outside Annapolis.
A lead scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation told the Capital Gazette editorial board this week that major projects will reduce stormwater runoff into local streams and creeks within a few years.
The results will be far faster than the longer lag times associated with other bay cleanup efforts, said Beth McGee, CBF’s senior scientist for water quality.
McGee said Anne Arundel should see more benefits than other counties because stormwater accounts for a high percentage of the pollution the county is charged with cleaning up under the new Chesapeake Bay Agreement and the federally imposed bay “pollution diet.”
“Urban runoff is a big piece of the pollution pie,” she said. The county is “... well served by getting going on it.”
McGee and CBF spokesman Tom Zolper said they are more hopeful about bay restoration because efforts have been energized by legislation and the federal standards.
Anne Arundel’s stormwater effort could have relatively immediate effects in individual streams and waterways, McGee said.
She said results should come sooner than efforts to curb agricultural pollution.
“With agriculture you are dealing with groundwater,” McGee said. She said it takes time for polluted water to seep through the ground before making its way to waterways. Some does run off on the surface, but much of it is in the soil.
“The pollution we see on the Eastern Shore is from 10 years ago,” McGee said. “But in urban areas we could see a more direct impact from reducing stormwater flow.”
Stormwater flow is slowed once restoration work is done in a creek watershed through culvert replacements, stormwater pond conversions or major stream bed restoration, she said. Less sediment moves downstream and and there could be lower levels of nutrients in the water.
“You should see water quality improvement within a couple of years,” McGee said.
County Watershed Protection and Restoration Program Director Erik Michelsen agreed.
“The benefits we are seeing after unstable outfalls and erosion are remedied — there is an almost immediate reduction of those pollutants,” Michelsen said.
He said there has been evidence of “biological bounce-back,” with small fish moving into the systems, more waterfowl and amphibian activity, and a return of plant communities.