Sharing the secrets of stormwater

Community hopes to spur more projects

By PAMELA WOOD, Staff Writer
The Capital, 04/20/10

When Bill Fritz and his neighbors in the Saefern community north of Annapolis wanted to fix a problem with polluted stormwater, they faced not only a steep hill but a steep learning curve.ow the folks from Saefern are sharing their lessons learned with others, in hopes of helping jump-start more environmental projects.

The problem was that a street and parking area drained into a large pipe that ran through a hillside, emptying out on a road below that sent the dirty stormwater straight into Clements Creek, which flows into the Severn River.

"It was just rushing, rushing, rushing," Fritz said of the site, near the community swimming pool and marina.

After some fits and starts and a crash course in learning about which agencies and groups offer grants, Saefern now has a restored hillside.

The big stormwater pipe was cut off, and now the rainwater that goes into the storm drain filters naturally through the hillside.

The hill is planted with water-loving plants and boulders that direct heavy flows of water during major storms.

In most modest storms, there's no stormwater at all leaving the site. And even in heavy storms, the water that does flow through and down toward Clement Creek is cleaner, Fritz said.

The entire project, completed last spring, cost $74,000. The money came from Saefern's community association, $10,000; the Chesapeake Bay Trust, $62,000; Unity Gardens, $1,000; and the Severn River Association, $1,000.

There were bumps along the road to securing the money, including being turned down for grants, Fritz said.

It took the help of a professional grant writer who lives in the community and the nonprofit Severn Riverkeeper group to nail down the money.

"A lot of this is learning," said Bob Whitcomb, president of the Severn River Association and a resident of Saefern. "We're all learning how we can best work with the agencies and funding sources."

The Severn River Association is hosting Fritz and landscape architect Keith Underwood at the group's meeting tonight to talk about the Saefern project and share tips for getting that kind of project off the ground.

The Severn River Association, in addition to trying to further knowledge, is putting money into the effort.

The association has created a Stormwater Action Fund. The fund will issue matching grants of up to $1,000 to help communities pay for designing the projects.

Whitcomb explained that it's often easier to secure grants for trees and plants and earth-moving than it is to secure grants for drawing up plans on paper.

Stormwater is a major source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, carrying sediment, bacteria and harmful nutrients into the water. Stormwater is the only major source of bay pollution that is increasing, according to state and federal officials.

The Severn River Association meets at 7 p.m. tonight at Calvary United Methodist Church, 701 Rowe Blvd. in Annapolis. For information, visit severnriver.org.

(Revised April 2010)