The Anne Arundel Chapter of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (Maryland LCV) and most local watershed organizations have sent an open letter to County Executive Steve Schuh expressing their concerns with his bill to repeal funding for the Watershed Protection and Restoration program. The full text of the letter is as follows:
We who are dedicated to cleaning up our polluted waterways are extremely disappointed and dismayed by your recent submission of Bill 6-15 to repeal the stormwater fees that support the Watershed Protection and Restoration program. This bill, and your public statement that you would sign Bill 7-15 that ends fees in July thus dismantling the program and stopping ongoing projects, is a clear reversal of your previous commitments to address stormwater, the largest and fastest growing source of pollution for our waterways.
Your pledge to replace the $21.4 million scheduled to be collected in stormwater fees from General Fund sources appears misleading to us for the following reasons:
• These dedicated fees are currently used to finance $70 to $80 million in bonds annually that the County needs in the short term to carry out projects that will meet the federally mandated deadlines for the stormwater permit and the 2025 pollution limits.
• Since the County is currently at its debt limit, the financing of equivalent bonds would not be possible without endangering the County’s credit rating. Thus with General Fund substitution there would be a $60 million shortfall in what’s needed immediately to fix the stormwater problem.
• Meeting the stormwater obligations through the General Fund would require County residents to give up projects critical to their quality of life—schools, libraries, roads and other capital improvements.
• $62.5 million in projects were initiated in FY 14 that will generate an estimated 130 jobs for local residents; severe cuts or elimination of these dollars will kill these jobs and stop the progress being made on reducing pollution. Keeping the stormwater fees is the fiscally responsible thing to do.
So we call on County Executive Schuh to explain to his constituents, many of whom voted for him because of his commitment to environmental issues, how he will continue the current level of funding for the Watershed Protection and Restoration program if stormwater fees are eliminated. Our ability to have swimmable, fishable waterways and our children’s legacy depend on it.
Anne Arundel Chapter, Maryland League of Conservation Voters – Advocates for Herring Bay – Anne Arundel Group, Sierra Club – Blue Water Baltimore – Magothy River Association – Restore Rock Creek – Severn River Association – Severn Riverkeeper Program – South River Federation – West/Rhode Riverkeeper