Planning commission gets lesson on watershed issues -- Gazette.Net


The Charles County Planning Commission took time Monday night to question citizen notification for work to be done through Phase II of the Watershed Implementation Plan.

Planning and Growth Management staff member Karen Wiggen broke down how the county’s watersheds function before and after development and the effect that development has on the streams.

In 1991, Wiggen said, there were about 30,000 structures built in the county. From then until 2011, about 20,000 were added, adding impervious surfaces.

With more impervious surface, Wiggen said, more runoff finds its way into the water. Otherwise, precipitation lands on leaves or grass or soil and evaporates back into the air or sinks into the ground and becomes groundwater, which Wiggen said is “very good during extended dry periods” because it keeps land fertile. Surface runoff evaporates less and contributes less to groundwater flow.

“When you have the impervious surface ... water comes out of the outfall and carries extra fertilizer that may be on lawns, grease ... and heavy metals,” Wiggen said. “Then it’s hitting ... [stream] bank[s], and because the soil in Charles County is fairly loose ... it erodes more. All of that sediment gets pushed downstream.”

Wiggen’s presentation included pictures from the Mattawoman Creek watershed, which showed how the area had been affected by erosion.

The WIP, Wiggen said, was developed to keep up with Environmental Protection Agency standards for the amount of phosphorus, sediments and nitrogen within the different basins of the Chesapeake Bay while maintaining water standards.

To do this, Wiggen said, it was ultimately determined that the county needs to focus on two areas: septic systems and urban stormwater sectors. Reduction in septic systems can take place through developing legislation to regulate how the systems pump and increasing the number connected to wastewater treatment plants and the best available technology. For the urban portion, Wiggen said, the best strategy would be stream and buffer restoration, along with retrofitting stormwater management ponds and developed land for effectiveness in reducing pollution loads.

This option, Wiggen said, would be the least expensive for the county. According to the draft report, the proposed work would cost a combined total of $172,459,920. The county’s capital program would help cover the cost, along with the Bay Restoration Fund. Without that money, the cost would be more than $44 million more.

Noncompliance would lead to rejected permits, more stringent permits and fines, Wiggen said. Funding is in place for the stormwater portion, while “more funding will be needed over time” for the septic part.

Member Gilbert “Buddy” Bowling questioned if there would be outreach for private septic system owners “to educate them on the importance of having them pumped out regularly.” Wiggen confirmed that this was in the two-year milestones for the program.

Member Joan Jones wanted to know how streams would be retrofitted and if there would be funding in place.

“They try to raise the stream beds up and lower the banks. ... It involves a lot of engineering and construction,” Wiggen replied. “The biggest thing is you need to bring down the banks ... so it doesn’t overflow and slow down.”

Wiggen also confirmed there is funding in place for the next five years for this. Citizens affected will be notified by the county to work out a solution. Many of the projects are concentrated on county and state land, Wiggen said.

The commission also unanimously approved two final plats for the Gleneagles subdivision in Waldorf. The plats are 49.59 acres and 87 lots and 168.97 acres and 173 lots, respectively.

The commission will hold its next meeting Oct. 7.