The administration of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) recently announced its proposal, which must be approved by the County Council, to pay for a $1.2 billion program over the next decade to install new controls on county properties. The plans would cost homeowners up to $62 annually in fees but would give them a break if they did some storm-water management of their own. Homeowners and businesses would get credit for installing rain gardens with special plantings that soak up water or rain barrels to catch rain and reuse it or for planting a “green roof” to help slow and cleanse runoff.
Businesses and religious institutions also would be subject to the fee, which would be $372 per acre of impervious surface, the term for parking lots, blacktop and other surfaces that allow unfiltered water carrying oil, trash and other pollutants to spill into streams and rivers.
A large shopping center such as Bowie Town Center would pay about $12,000 annually and a small strip center would pay about $1,000 under the Baker administration plan, according to the proposed fees. A large church with extensive parking lots totaling about 18 acres would pay about $7,000, but small churches would pay a few hundred dollars annually.
The county hopes to outsource much of the work for storm-water management to a public-private corporation that would be set up under the supervision of a county-appointed board, whose members would come from government, industry and community organizations. That company would be responsible for overseeing the installation and management of thousands of storm-water devices that must be placed on public property. Across the county, officials estimate that at least 8,000 acres — most of it on public land — need some type of new controls on storm water and its polluting runoff.
Adam Ortiz, acting director of the county’s environmental resources department, estimates that the county will need 40,000 storm-water devices — rain barrels, rain gardens, water-absorbing sidewalks — to meet the mandate. He said the program would help improve water quality in streams and rivers and potentially spur the development of a “green” industry in the county.
“We see this as a massive jobs program,” he said.
Ortiz hopes that the demand for storm-water devices will attract companies to the county or spark the creation of ones. These companies would create and manufacture the devices. He estimates that the new industry could generate 5,000 jobs in the next decade in Prince George’s, based on modeling that the federal government did to estimate the effects of the recent stimulus program.