The Ehrlich-Steele Administration's Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) was selected as one of nine regional finalists among hundreds of applicant to receive the Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments (CSG). MDE’s Dr. Bob Summers, director, Water Management Administrations, gave a presentation about the fund to a committee of legislators and representatives of state governments throughout the south. The venue was CSG Southern Legislative Conference meeting, held in Mobile, Alabama, August 2.
“This was a good opportunity to talk about the progressive programs in Maryland… an information exchange on restoring Chesapeake Bay, collecting fees and how the Bay Restoration Fund is used” said Dr. Summers. “We stressed the importance of water quality and the challenges that states face in restoring and upgrading their wastewater infrastructure.”
Awards were issued based on criteria such as creativity and uniqueness of a program, its effectiveness, and the ability to transfer these successful experiences to other states.
The Bay Restoration Fund is unique in that it’s based on a cooperative, multi-state scientific evaluation of the water quality benefit and nutrient reduction requirements for the Bay. The enabling legislation received broad, bi-partisan support in Maryland. All nutrient-rich wastewater generators pay the fee, including homeowners.
Funding is distributed to the sewage system upgrades focused in critical area and cover crops, which are the most cost-effective ways to reduce pollutant loading in to the Bay.
BRF met requirements for effectiveness in being nominated for this award because it ensures that the majority (95%) of Maryland’s sewage is treated with state-of-the-art nutrient removal technology. It is projected to achieve over 1/3 of the nutrient reductions necessary to meet Maryland’s share of the Chesapeake Bay restoration goal strengthened by significant State-wide involvement in financing. It also involves and educates all citizens as to their responsibility for clean water.
BRF is significant for other states. It addresses one of the top causes of impairment of U.S waters and similar funds can be established in other states to address their wastewater infrastructure needs. The national wastewater infrastructure needs survey in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compiled information from all 50 states totals in excess of $162 billion. The Maryland BRF can be replicated in other states to provide a mechanism for States to partner with local governments in meeting these critical wastewater infrastructure needs.
To meet transferability requirements, the Bay Fund proved to be a model on how it can be implemented in other places. Most wastewater treatment facilities already bill their customers and can easily implement the fee with their existing billing system, and states and local governments have a collection system in place that can provide a framework for billing. All states have nutrient problems in their streams, lakes and estuaries. Nutrient removal technologies for wastewater treatment are widely applicable and are particularly effective in southern states with warmer climates. Maryland’s Bay Restoration Fund continues to be a model for other states.
Alabama's Office of Emerging Health Technologies was selected as one of the two winners of the Innovations award, with a remote monitoring system designed to reach isolated, rural, chronically ill patients. The medical informatics device allows caregivers to monitor physiologic conditions in patients and reduces visits to the emergency room.
South Carolina's Information and Analysis Center was awarded for their program, using investigation and intelligence information to detect, pre-empt, and prevent future cyber terrorist acts by combining resources, to include personnel, equipment, and information from multi-agency sources.
As it is an honor to be nominated, the BRF is the premier Environmental program to protect the Chesapeake Bay. It has been at the pinnacle of Maryland’s efforts to further reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loading in the Bay by over 7.5 million pounds annually of nitrogen, and over 260 thousand pounds of phosphorus per year.