Stormwater Management in Georgetown East

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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 management project in Georgetown East. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please let me know! My email is ben@severnriver.org

SRA is a 501c3 non-profit organization with experience and success at pursuing funding and project management for pollution reduction and environmental restoration. Our 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.

Click on any picture to make it bigger or to download.

What’s the Big Deal About Stormwater, Anyway?

Great question! 

As you’re probably already well aware, storms can cause flooding and erosion. Does something like this look familiar?

Rainfall, in combination with highly compacted soils, causes excessive ponding in the neighborhood because water is unable to infiltrate down into the ground as it would naturally. This ponding is problematic to the community because it can flood homes, erode soils, and generally be a nuisance. It’s problematic to the environment because when that ponded water does move and wind up in storm drains, it carries with it fertilizer nutrients, pet waste, and soil, and the storm drains direct these right into Back Creek without any pollution treatment at all. 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 use 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 that starts in your own 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. 

Project Environmental Benefits

  • Less flooding and erosion
  • Decreased nutrient & sediment pollution to Back Creek and Severn River 
  • Improved levels of oxygen and water quality in the Severn – smaller and fewer ‘dead zones’ (maybe we even get rid of them altogether!)
  • Native plants will attract pollinators (birds, butterflies, bats and bees)
  • Increased biodiversity
  • Stronger, more resilient environment

Project Summary

The primary goal of the project is to reduce flooding and ponding in the neighborhood. The secondary goal is to reduce associated erosion that brings nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution into Back Creek and the Severn River, which has been declared “impaired” under the federal Clean Water Act for these three pollutants.

The City of Annapolis has outlined a general process for restoration projects.

SRA has already helped the Georgetown East community with this process and successfully obtained funding ($35,000) from the Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) to design (and if necessary, get City of Annapolis permits for) a stormwater management project to improve the flooding, erosion, and nutrient problems caused by this stormwater. The project will consist of four rain gardens, also called “micro-bioretention cells”. The design is being done by BayLand Consultants and Designers and will be completed some time between December 2023 and the end of February 2024. Your neighbor, Jenny Smeltzer, is a professional landscape architect, and she has generously volunteered her time and expertise to design the plantings of the rain gardens. Thank you Jenny! 

A big shout out and thank you to the City of Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay Trust’s Anne Arundel County Watershed Restoration grant program for funding the design of 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.

The plantings will utilize native species. Native plants have much deeper roots than the grass species typically used in lawns. This is important because roots create spaces where water can infiltrate down into the ground, rather than staying at the surface. The plants will use the nutrients, and the soil can also act as a filter for nitrogen and phosphorus. This means that native plants are great at reducing flooding and treating stormwater pollution to Back Creek.

Figure 1. Comparison of root depths for non-native plants (left) and native plants (right). Native plants have root structures that go deeper, which also allows water to infiltrate further down into the soil. Note that Fescue Grass, commonly used for lawns, has the shortest root structure. 

Design is a great first step. Now, we want to make these rain gardens a reality. While the design is being worked on, SRA is busy pursuing funding for implementation. We are seeking funding to create the four rain gardens from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Chesapeake and Coastal Grants Gateway. SRA will write and submit the proposal to DNR. If SRA’s application is unsuccessful, SRA will look for other sources of funding to build this project. Or, we can always try again next year. A ‘no’ is not final or forever.

Project Design

SRA wants to make sure that the project is something that the community will enjoy (in addition to all the great environmental benefits). Keep in mind that, as with so many things in life, there are trade-offs to consider. We want to understand what you value so the project will reflect those values. So, right now we want your feedback, especially while the project is still in its early stages. Now is the best opportunity to make sure to get it right. Please let me know what you think of the concept plan below by November 12, 2023. You can email me any time, ben@severnriver.org 

Figure 2. Concept design plan showing the locations and shapes of the four rain gardens. Ex. = existing. Pr. = proposed. Note: there are three existing trees that are proposed to be removed (between buildings B-5 and B-6, between buildings B-7 and B-1, and near building B-4). How do you feel about this?

Figure 3. Existing conditions of soil infiltration tests and the locations of underground utilities. Soils were tested at three locations (circles with black & white squares in them). If you squint real hard you might be able to read the results in the lower right corner which indicate there is silty sand near the surface and it becomes more clayey deeper down. Clay soils don’t let water percolate down, so groundwater sits in the soil above, which leads to the ponding that you see when it rains.

Timeline

    • December 2022 – SRA (Jesse Iliff) met with Georgetown East community  (Robin Schmidt, Jon Chapman, and Jenny Smeltzer), the City of Annapolis Department of Public Works (Betsey McKeown, Jasmine Wilding) and CBT (Sarah Koser) to visit the site and discuss the project and possible solution.
    • March 2023 – SRA submitted project proposal to CBT. Requested $283,629 to design and build the project. Georgetown East committed $500 and SRA committed $500 to the project also. 
    • July 2023 – CBT awarded SRA $35,000, but just to design the project.
    • August 2023 – Project Kickoff Meeting with SRA, BayLand, Georgetown East, City of Annapolis, and CBT
    • October 2023 – BayLand mapped all underground utilities and conducts soil testing to determine water infiltration rates
    • October 23, 2023 – Site visit with DNR (Dana Reiss and perhaps Nicole Carlozo).
    • November 12, 2023 – Deadline for community input into design plans
    • December 1, 2023 – Design might be completed as early as this
    • December 14, 2023 – Deadline for SRA submission of construction funding proposal to DNR Grants Gateway
    • January 1, 2024 to March 31, 2024 – DNR reviews and evaluates construction proposal
    • February 28, 2024 – Design must be 100% complete, plans submitted to City of Annapolis and CBT
    • April 1, 2024 to June 30, 2024 – DNR announces which proposals they will fund
    • July 2024 – If awarded, construction funding becomes available, construction can begin
    • September 2024 – Construction completed, SRA responsible for maintenance for 5 years
    • September 2029 – Maintenance responsibility transfers to Georgetown East

Ways You Can Help!

Community support is critical to a successful grant proposal. Specifically, there are several ways you can choose to support this project. Any and all are appreciated! 

  1. You can allow SRA and/or its contractors to access a site via your property 
  2. You can pledge to help volunteer with planting and/or maintaining native plants as part of the project’s installation.
  3. You can install a rain barrel to capture and slow down stormwater coming off your roof.
  4. Other …. There are lots of ways to be involved. If you have an idea or want to discuss, please reach out!

If you are interested in participating in any of the ways above, please reach out to SRA’s Restoration Manager, Ben Fertig: ben@severnriver.org 

Community Comments, Questions & Concerns

  • What will SRA do for Georgetown East?
      • SRA has already written a successful proposal to fund the design of the rain gardens, hired BayLand Consultants and Designers as engineering contractors and is serving as the project manager to make sure everything happens smoothly and on time. 
      • SRA will write a proposal to DNR Grants Gateway to fund the construction of the rain gardens, will request bids and hire a construction contractor, and will manage the project to completion.
      • Once constructed, SRA will maintain the project for 5 years and afterwards, maintenance will be the responsibility of Georgetown East. SRA will provide Georgetown East with a maintenance plan and ensure that the community knows how to maintain the project indefinitely. 
  • How much will this project cost Georgetown East?
      • SRA is pursuing funding for the vast bulk of project costs. CBT awarded $35,000 for the design (and any potential permitting requirements). Georgetown East committed $500 matching funds for this portion of the project. SRA also committed $500 for this portion of the project. Plus, the value of the work Jenny Smeltzer is putting in as an in-kind match for designing the plantings plus that of volunteers helping put plants in the ground is valued at ~$5,000.  
      • The exact budget for construction is still being worked up, but originally SRA requested $275,269 for the construction portion of the previous proposal, so that is a good rough estimate of what will be requested from DNR. A financial cash match from Georgetown East for the construction proposal will help increase the chances of successful funding, though it is not technically required. There is no set amount, nor is it tied to a percentage of the proposal request. Any amount is appreciated and will help increase the odds of being funded. Previously successful proposals have included cash matches ranging ~$10K-$20K, but again, it is entirely up to the community as to whether and how much matching funds to provide. Also keep in mind that volunteering and provision of in-kind materials or services counts towards this financial match, same as with the design proposal mentioned above. Also, the CBT grant ($35,000) will count as a financial match as well. No guarantees, but cobbling all these pieces together will really help towards the success of the proposal.
  • Are the boring sites the anticipated location of the rain gardens?
      • Yes. There will be four rain gardens, but only three borings were made because two of the smaller gardens will be very close to each other and the soils will basically be the same. 
  • Are there any bad spots for the gardens that could cause problems down the line?
      • The locations of the gardens were chosen based on the topography. They are at the lowest points so that gravity will help drain the water to them. The gardens need to avoid utility lines so as to not cause damage. 
  • Is there any concern of liability or requirement for insurance associated with rain gardens?
      • All questions regarding community liability and insurance should be directed to the community’s insurance company. The rain gardens would be categorized along with other regular landscaping features.
  • Is Georgetown East a priority for restoration?
  • Can I help?
      • Yes! See the ways above. We would LOVE your help with the planting and maintenance of the gardens! Please reach out to Ben Fertig for more information. 
      • Also, we are always looking for volunteers and boat captains to help us with our water quality monitoring program, which runs 3 days a week from April through October. Please reach out to Sarah Winchester,  if you are interested in getting on the water with SRA!

 Photos

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