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Hi! My name is Ben Fertig, I’m the Restoration Manager at Severn River Association (SRA). My job is to help communities improve their local environment and restore the Severn River. Good communication is really important to me. So I’ve put together this page to let you know about what’s happening with the stormwater drainage swale behind your house along Genessee St. in Annapolis. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Click on any of the images to see them larger and/or download.
Your neighbor Aaron Goodman contacted SRA about heavy water flow and flooding during/after storms (Figure 1) of an otherwise dry swale that traverses his and several other properties. The swale is a part of the overall storm drainage system that includes 1,080 linear feet of closed storm drains and 200 linear feet of open storm drain system outletting through a headwall and a 20-foot long riprap apron into College Creek. During storms, water can flow quickly causing concern for safety, sediment erosion, and nitrogen and phosphorus loading to College Creek, which flows into the Severn River. The Severn River is classified as ‘impaired’ for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments according to the Clean Water Act. The swale has previously been identified and described as “BMP_19” (BMP stands for ‘best management practice’) in the City of Annapolis Stormwater Management Inventory and Watershed Improvement Plan (Table 1).
Table 1. Description of the project identified in the City of Annapolis Stormwater Management Inventory and Watershed Improvement Plan (AECOM 2016). The table indicates the approximate drainage area is 2.1 acres and the approximate impervious area is 1.0 acres.
SRA is helping Aaron and the other affected property owners to alleviate the flooding, reduce sediment and nutrient pollution to College Creek, and transfer credits for managing the stormwater to the City of Annapolis. SRA is pursuing funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration grant program to design a solution to the high flows in the swale. SRA’s vision is a thriving Severn River by 2050 and our mission is to connect the people who live, work and play on the Severn River to restore and protect it for all of our communities and this project aligns with our mission.
As you’re probably already well aware, storms can cause flooding and erosion. Does something like this look familiar?
Figure 1. High volume of stormwater flow through the swale.
Why is it flooding?
Well, two main reasons: first, it is draining a large amount of area (see Figure 2) and second, the storm drains have brought and deposited a lot of sediment into the swale, which has filled up substantially over ~40 years.
Figure 2. Drainage area (in yellow) leading to stormwater drains (red squares) that flow along stormwater pipes (red lines) to the swale behind Genessee St. and out to College Creek. Topographic lines (brown lines) are also included.
When water runs downhill it carries sediments (to which phosphorus ‘sticks’), dissolves nitrogen and carries these nutrients with it, down to the Severn and the Chesapeake Bay. Nutrients sound good, right? We need nutrition after all.
Yes – but to a point.
When there are too many nutrients (either nitrogen or phosphorus), it spurs algae populations to grow out of control. Nitrogen and phosphorus are basically what’s in plant fertilizer, as many gardeners know. The algae population grows so much that it uses up all the nutrients, but then the algae ‘starve’ to death and sink to the bottom of the water. The algae then decompose and the bacteria decomposing the algae uses up oxygen, creating dead zones where oxygen levels are too low for most organisms (e.g. rockfish, oysters, and crabs) to survive. Overgrowth of algae and dead zones decrease biodiversity which in turn impacts humans and other organisms that feed and rely on these aquatic organisms.
SRA water quality monitoring in the Severn River records low oxygen levels frequently during summer that indicates the presence of dead zones throughout the river. This is a problem going on quite literally in your backyard.
This project will decrease the stormwater runoff that contributes to these dead zones. Additionally, the projects will help curtail the flooding, erosion, and sedimentation in the community.
The primary purpose of this effort is to reduce flooding associated with stormwater conveyance through a storm drain system with an open swale that transverses several properties along Genessee St. Annapolis, MD and empties to College Creek (Figure 2). Secondarily, we aim to decrease nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment load to College Creek associated with this stormwater. College Creek flows to the Severn River, which has been declared “impaired” under the Clean Water Act for these three pollutants.
The first necessary step was to determine the appropriate jurisdiction and ownership of the swale. As part of a stormwater drainage system, it was originally assumed to be the jurisdiction of the City of Annapolis. However, the plat for Windmills of Annapolis (Figure 3) and additional evidence and inquiry with the Maryland Department of the Environment, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers established that the swale is not owned in entirety by any entity and instead belongs to the property it traverses. Therefore, it is necessary that any proposed and/or implemented project must obtain written permission from all affected property owners.
Figure 3. Plat for Windmills of Annapolis, the site location
Additionally, it was not clear how deep the stormwater has deposited sediments nor was it known what was underneath the sediments. Therefore, SRA received written permission to perform a test soil bore, and discovered that there were five inches of organic matter deposited above inorganic clay (Figure 4). Complete details are available in the soil test report. It is not clear how deep the clay sediment layer is.
Figure 4. A soil core was collected by pounding a pipe into the soil (left photo), revealing a top layer of about 5 inches of organic matter (darker material) above a a layer of inorganic clay (right photo).
SRA will generate a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids to design the retrofit and with input/feedback from the property owners on Genessee St., select an engineering contractor. With this, SRA will prepare a proposal to be submitted to the Chesapeake Bay Trust Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration Grant Program (AACO-WRGP). If SRA’s proposal is unsuccessful, SRA will look for other sources of funding to design, permit, and build this project.
SRA’s work for the Severn, including on environmental restoration projects like this one, is only possible because of private donations from our over 500 members. Grants like this one only cover a small fraction of our costs. Every member makes an annual donation and those who give $1000 or more annually become one of our critically important major donors.
SRA will solicit community feedback and input during the design stage to make sure your concerns and interests are heard. Design generally proceeds in stages with specific opportunities for comment and feedback. Because this is a relatively small project, some stages may vary or be combined.
This project will decrease flooding of the swale behind the homes along Genessee St. Further, it will decrease the nutrient and sediment runoff in stormwater that contributes to dead zones in the Severn River. Stormwater management can improve the Severn River’s water quality so that the ecosystem can flourish.
Community support is critical to a successful grant proposal. Specifically, there are several ways to support this project. Because this project is on your private property, SRA and CBT must receive your written permission and approval of the project in order to be funded.
Further, because the government will be funding the project and it does not want to waste taxpayer dollars, the project must be maintained indefinitely and that responsibility (with the important exception of large, structural issues) lies with SRA for five years and thereafter the responsibility is transferred to the property owner.
Therefore, SRA will be mailing a form letter (download here!) with a self-addressed envelope stating:
Please sign and return the letter to SRA in the envelope provided by January 31, 2024 so we can collate and provide these as supporting documents for the grant proposal.
If awarded, SRA will solicit your signature to execute the Maintenance Agreement (download it here!), and SRA will cover the costs of notarization.
For questions and concerns, please reach out to SRA’s Restoration Manager, Ben Fertig: email@example.com
Check back here in the future to see the design concept!