January 21, 2015
By Greg Fox
The Virginia Metropolitan Stormwater Association, also called VAMSA, asked Don Rissmeyer to present AMT’s experience to its members during its quarterly meeting last week in Richmond. Don and I were excited to share our best management practice designs with a focus on stream restoration. As this was my first VAMSA meeting, I was surprised to see roughly 150 people in the meeting room and to hear about the challenges in effectively planning to meet Chesapeake Bay Program requirements for reducing total maximum daily loads of sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen by 2025. Modifications to the reduction rates, law changes affecting accounting practices, and varying interpretations all affect local governments’ ability to plan for meeting their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System requirements. As an example, Fairfax County noted that it initially estimated the cost to meet their stream restoration goals at $400 million, but recent changes have driven that price up to $3.1 billion.
Pollutant reduction credits for stream restoration and other BMP projects are based on local monitoring results and other research compiled by a panel of experts comprising scientists, government officials and design consultants. As more data are obtained and analyzed, pollutant reduction efficiencies, that are so important to project planning, are updated and will be further improved. This means that the reduction rates estimated in 2013 are different from those in 2015. Local governments are responsible for collecting funds, identifying projects, and prioritizing the most cost-effective means to achieve the mandated goals.
Stream restoration projects complement other watershed improvement practices like stormwater management ponds, and filtering practices like bio-retention, rain gardens and green and vegetated roofs, but repairing previous environmental damage and mitigating against continual growth and construction in the bay watershed which increases runoff rates, flooding and velocities in the affected channels is a slow process.
Knowing that stream restoration projects are an effective way to reduce pollutants and an integral part of most county governments’ plans to meet their pollutant reduction goals, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to let these Virginia professionals know about AMT’s experience in helping clients meet their SWM needs.
AMT’s water resources engineers and scientists have been studying watersheds, assessing streams, and designing BMP restoration plans for various counties and state agencies in the bay area for more than 20 years and stream restoration projects for 10 years in Maryland.
Don and I stepped up to the podium with smiles on our faces, looked over the surprisingly large crowd (with only a few taking a short after-lunch-nap in their seats) and explained that consultants appreciate their needs and have the expertise to help them to minimize project duration, design costs, construction costs to achieve the highest level of pollutant reductions possible for the funding available.
In the end, a few more government employees learned that stream restoration projects are indeed a useful tool to meet their pollutant reduction goals and a couple of consultants learned that local governments need the assistance of environmental professionals now, more than ever… and perhaps we all need a few more lawyers and lobbyists in Washington D.C. to protect our natural resources and our tax money. Like many of our clients and peer consultants, we have learned many valuable lessons from our own experience and from projects completed by others.