Egret in a Local Runoff Pipe. Jane Hawkey, Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (,

Stormwater has been identified by the EPA and MDE as a "significant" source of pollution for the Chesapeake Bay.  EPA and MDE claim that it is the only source of pollution that is increasing in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake Bay.  Recent legislation requires the ten largest jurisdictions in Maryland (Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Charles County, Frederick County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County and Prince George's County) to raise money locally to reduce their respective stormwater pollution (even though local governments may do so on their own accord if they believe it to be a justifiable revenue raising endeavor). 


While Marylanders are being required to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in stormwater management fees (aka "rain taxes") to fund State-mandated urban/ suburban stormwater retrofits in the name of saving the Chesapeake Bay, just a single significant storm event can scour and unleash into the Bay decades worth of Susquehanna River nutrients and sediments from above the Conowingo Dam.


MDE's Phase II WIP commits Maryland taxpayers to spend $7.4 billion through 2025 on urban and suburban stormwater retrofits; with $5.9 billion coming from local governments and $1.5 billion from the Maryland Department of Transportation. These proposed retrofits and expenditures in the stormwater sector are projected by the State to reduce nutrient and sediment loadings to the Bay and its tributaries, as follows:


  • 838,000 pounds per year of nitrogen (419 tons/year). About 78% of that reduction is anticipated to occur from sources regulated under federal NPDES stormwater permits;
  • 90,000 pounds per year of phosphorus (45 tons/year). The majority of those reductions, about 80%, are anticipated to occur from sources under federal NPDES stormwater permits; and
  • 91 million pounds per year of sediment (45,500 tons/year). Consistent with projected nutrient reductions, the majority of these reductions in sediment are anticipated to occur from sources under federal NPDES stormwater permits (regulated urban).


Meanwhile, the Susquehanna River through the Conowingo Dam annually delivers about 71,000 tons of nitrogen, 3,300 tons of phosphorus and more than 2,500,000 tons of sediment to the Bay; and during just a single storm event in September 2011 (Tropical Storm Lee) the following amounts of nutrients and sediment were dumped into the Bay through the Conowingo Dam: 42,000 tons of nitrogen, 10,600 tons of phosphorus and 19 million tons of sediment (4 million tons due to scouring). Behind the Conowingo Dam sits an estimated 670,000 tons of nitrogen, 130,000 tons of phosphorus and 174 million tons of sediment, with no plans by the State of Maryland or any other Bay states to address what has accumulated in the reservoir above the Dam over the past 84 years and is now being scoured regularly into the Bay.


Again, urban and suburban stormwater retrofits as mandated by the State involve exorbitant taxpayer expenditures for a de minimus return on investment, while the largest single source of nutrient and sediment loading to the Bay is ignored in the State's WIP.  Stormwater retrofits, as with most any Bay cleanup effort, will bring some benefit to the health of the Chesapeake Bay; however, the extent of positive influence that will result from stormwater retrofits remains a challenge given the state of the Conowingo Dam near the mouth of Susquehanna River

Letter to the Editor - Stormwater & "Rain Tax" Issues

Letter to the Editor - Clarifying Stormwater & "Rain Tax" Issues
Sent September 29, 2014. Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith writes a letter to the Editor of The Frederick News-Post clarifying stormwater and "rain tax" issues.
Paul Smith Ltr to the Editor re Stormwat[...]
Adobe Acrobat document [58.9 KB]

State (MDE) threatens counties' with daily stormwater fines

Commissioners pass clean water policy to help rain tax negotiations

January 10, 2014, Jen Bondeson, The Frederick News-Post


Md. leads the region in reducing stromwater runoff

January 10, 2014, Letter from Secretary Robert Summers of the MDE, The Baltimore Sun


City, Two Counties Ordered to curb Storm-water Pollution

December 24, 2013, Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun


State Warns Counties Could Face Daily Fines Over Stormwater Fees

November 6, 2013, Maryland Association of Counties, Conduit Street Blog


Maryland threatens fines over stormwater pollution fee

November 6, 2013,Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun


State warns Harford officials on 'rain tax' repeal

November 5, 2013, David Anderson, The Baltimore Sun


Editorial: Threat of fine is premature

November 6, 2013, Carroll County Times


Rain tax, Part II

November 6, 2013, The Frederick News-Post


Carroll County Letter from OAG
Adobe Acrobat document [38.6 KB]
Frederick County Letter from MDE
Adobe Acrobat document [105.1 KB]
Harford County Letter from MDE
Adobe Acrobat document [103.9 KB]

Governor candidates weigh in on environment

November 5, 2013, The Baltimore Sun, Michael Dresser


State warns 1-cent stormwater fee is 'insufficient'

November 4, 2013, Bethany Rodgers, The Frederick News-Post

June, 2013. Cross Street, Chestertown, MD.

Media Articles on Stormwater

The following sampling of articles highlights the spirited public debate underway throughout Maryland about efforts to reduce stormwater in the name of saving the Bay:


Commissioners to discuss stormwater projects, funding with towns in upcoming meeting

August 23, 2013, Christian Alexandersen, Carroll County Times


A 2011 Storm Walloped the Bay with Sediment, Study Says

July 30, 2013, Daniel Strain, Maryland Sea Grant


Stormwater fees debated anew in Maryland

September 3, 2013, Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun

Protest Brewing Over Maryland's New 'Rain Tax'

July 9, 2013, Baltimore (WJZ)


Baltimore's industrial market among hottest in U.S., but stormwater fees could slow construction

July 8, 2013, Kevin Litten, Baltimore Business Journal


Maryland legislature should revisit 'rain tax'

June 26, 2013, Editorial, The Baltimor Sun


Backlash from stormwater fee catches advocates off guard

June 9, 2013, Rona Kobell, Bay Journal


'Rain Tax' an excuse for government to take more control

May 6, 2013, Del. Justin Ready, The Baltimore Sun


Counties Near Local Stormwater Fee Deadline

April 26, 2013, Conduit Street, Maryland Association of Counties


We must better manage, treat polluted runoff

April 25, 2013, Lee Epstein, Gazette.Net

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation responds to Blair Lee's column


Legislature likely to change 'rain tax,' say some Democratic lawmakers

April 25, 2013, Len Lazarick, Maryland Reporter


Arundel executive vetoes 'rain tax' fee

April 25, 2013, Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun


Maryland government properties won't pay 'rain tax'

April 20, 2013, Andy Brownfield, The Washington Examiner


 The 'Rain Tax'

April 5, 2013, Blair Lee, Gazette.Net


Businesses fear huge bills from stormwater fee

April 1, 2013, Allison Bourg, The Capital

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