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Maryland State Government Maryland Department of the Environment

Erosion and Sediment Control in MarylandRaindrop splashing into ground

The effects of erosion and sedimentation are well known. Typically, when disturbed earth is exposed to the impacts of rainfall, there is an increase in the volume and velocity of runoff.  This sets off a chain reaction that results in the transport and deposition of sediment, reduced stream capacity, and ultimately increased stream scour and flooding. Additionally, suspended sediment contributes to a decline in water quality by blocking sunlight, reducing photosynthesis, decreasing plant growth, destroying bottom dwelling species’ habitat, carrying attached pollutants such as phosphorous, and so on. The list of negative impacts is long.


Sediment plume in local creekLegislation, established to protect Maryland waters from various pollutants, has existed since the early 1930s. In 1961, the Maryland’s Attorney General determined sediment to be a pollutant. This determination was based upon an interpretation of a 1957 State statute and authorized sediment control regulations to be developed. A statewide sediment control program was mandated in 1970 when the General Assembly passed the Sediment Control Law. From a historical perspective, Maryland’s incentive for having an erosion and sediment control program is the Chesapeake Bay. From a practical standpoint, federal involvement via the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) provides an incentive for State and local program development.  The Chesapeake Bay initiatives in 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and the NPDES municipal stormwater program have stimulated additional emphasis.

Picture of a Sediment TrapThe program developed in 1970 is essentially the same that exists today with an approved plan being required for any earth disturbance of 5,000 square feet or more and 100 cubic yards or more; plan approval exemptions for agricultural uses; plan review and approval by local Soil Conservation Districts (SCD); grading ordinance adoption by local jurisdictions; utility construction inspection by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC); and criminal penalties for sediment pollution.  Various programmatic improvements have included requiring sediment control plan approval prior to issuing grading and building permits (1973); requiring training and certification of "responsible personnel" (1980); shifting enforcement authority from local to State control and establishing delegation criteria (1984); requiring NPDES stormwater discharge permits for construction activity (1991); subjecting agricultural land management practices to enforcement action for sediment pollution (1992); and establishing a maximum grading unit of 20 acres (2011).

Maryland’s Erosion Control Law and regulations specify the general provisions for program implementation; procedures for delegation of enforcement authority; requirements for erosion and sediment control ordinances; exemptions from plan approval requirements; requirements for training and certification programs; criteria for plan submittal, review, and approval; and procedures for inspection and enforcement. Proper design, installation, and maintenance of erosion and sediment control practices is essential to having an effective program.  MDE has established minimum criteria for effective erosion and sediment control practices.  The 2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control are incorporated by reference into State regulations and serve as the official guide for erosion and sediment control principles, methods, and practices.


new  2015 Maryland Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards and Specifications for Forest Harvest Operations 


The Departments of Environment and Natural Resources are pleased to announce the issuance of the 2015 Maryland Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards and Specifications for Forest Harvest Operations (Manual).  A draft Manual was published in 2005 but never finalized.  The current updates to the Manual incorporate the extensive comments received in 2005 by forest-based businesses, private woodland owners, forest managers, environmental interests, and water quality experts.  Collaboration with the State Soil Conservation Committee and the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, along with editing by a long-time forestry consultant working through the University of Maryland Extension, has resulted in a Manual that is both practical to implement and effective in maintaining the water quality of local streams.  The 2015 Manual will be the statewide standard for preventing and controlling sediment and erosion risks resulting from timber harvesting activities, and beginning on July 1, 2016 will supersede all previous guidance and standards.

Application of the Manual statewide will aid both the forestry industry and approval agencies by providing consistency to the planning and permitting process.  The majority of practices within the Manual remain unchanged from previous versions; however, some are now updated to reflect improved industry practices and advances in technology.  Details of specifications, including when and where they shall be applied, are now clarified.  A major goal of the current effort was to eliminate ambiguity and subjectivity while also providing for professional discretion and flexibility.

Forest harvest plans submitted for approval after July 1, 2016 must be consistent with the Manual.  However, plans submitted prior to July 1, 2016 may be developed using the Manual if the landowner or logger so chooses.  Please note that the approval process is different in each County and you should therefore consult with the local approving authorities prior to designing a timber harvest plan.

The local soil conservation district is the primary approval authority in all Counties, and their staff can advise you on any additional approvals needed for a particular harvest.  For example, stream crossings may require additional permits prior to harvesting, and the Maryland Department of Environment Wetlands and Waterways Program can assist landowners and timber harvesters with protecting Waters of the State.  Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service offers preparation of Forest Stewardship Plans and provides advice to property owners regarding local permitting processes and requirements.

The Manual is available here:

2015 Maryland Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards and Specifications for Forest Harvest Operations

For more information contact:

Daniel Rider -  Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, Forest Stewardship & Utilization Program Manager at
410-260-8583 or

Brian Clevenger - Maryland Department of the Environment, Water Management Administration, Sediment, Stormwater, Dam Safety Program Administrator at 410-537-3543 or


Responsible Personnel Certification Course

The Erosion and Sediment Control training course (formerly “green card”) is intended to provide the necessary training for individuals acting as the “Responsible Person” tasked with implementing and maintaining erosion and sediment controls as required by State law. It is also available to any person with an interest in learning about Maryland’s erosion and sediment control program and how it protects local water resources and Chesapeake Bay.

Maryland's Responsible Personnel Certification Course

There is no fee for the course and it should take 4-5 hours to complete, although does not need to be done in one sitting.  At the successful completion of the course, a certification number and card will be generated by the program.  You may print out the card and/or save the file electronically. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the course, please contact Pat Depkin at 410-537-3628 or


2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control

The 2011 Standards and Specifications are available here:

2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control

Details from the 2011 Standards and Specifications are available online here:

Details from the 2011 Standards and Specifications


Contact Info

For additional information regarding the training program or other aspects of Maryland’s erosion and sediment control program please contact the Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program at (410) 537-3543.


To Report Sediment Control Problems...
In the following counties and municipalities, please call:

Anne Arundel County   (410) 222-7777
     Annapolis (410) 263-7946
Baltimore City   (410) 396-0732
Baltimore County   (410) 887-3226
Calvert County   (410) 535-9235
Carroll County   (410) 386-2210
Charles County   (301) 645-0700
Dorchester County   (410) 228-2920
Frederick County   (301) 600-3507
Harford County   (410) 879-2000
     Bel Air   (410) 879-9507
     Aberdeen   (410) 272-1600
Howard County   (410) 313-1855
Kent County   (410) 778-7467
Montgomery County   (240) 777-0311
     Gaithersburg   (301) 258-6330
     Rockville   (240) 314-8870
Prince George's County   (301) 883-5600
     Bowie   (240) 508-5271
     Greenbelt   (301) 474-8004
     Laurel   (301) 725-5300
WSSC   (301) 206-8072
Worcester County   (410) 632-1200


For all other locations in Maryland call the Maryland Department of the Environment:

Week Days               (410) 537-3510
Nights/Weekends   1-866-633-4686