OC signs off on three-year renewal to retain Maryland Certified Community status
(June 7, 2019) As part of a mandated three-year renewal for the Sustainable Maryland Certified Community designation, Ocean City is updating its Stormwater Management Program, which for two decades has provided incentives encouraging property owners to adopt practices to reduce nutrient runoff into area waterways.
Ocean City was first certified as a Sustainable Maryland Certified Community in October 2016. The program is a joint effort between the Maryland Municipal League and the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland.
Bill Neville, director of Planning & Community Development, received City Council approval for updates to current codes, procedures and best practices for the town’s Stormwater Management Program during its meeting on Monday.
Environmental Engineer Gail Blazer said there are three phases to stormwater management, including water quality volume and pollutant reduction, municipal infrastructure addressing outfall discharges and best management practices on projects with environmentally sensitive designs, and incentive programs for property owners to foster water quality and habitat projects.
“Over the last number of years, [we’re] trying to provide incentives for single-family home, commercial and condominium owners to put in a best management practice on a small scale that could help reduce runoff and absorb the nutrients that go into the bay by planting landscaping and taking out asphalt,” she said.
In addition to rain garden projects, the city also has provided property owners plantings for both bayside and ocean dune settings for the past dozen years, Blazer said.
“Because it’s such a harsh environment, landscaping has a hard time taking, so we have a specific variety of plants we offer in the spring time, (such as) beach grasses, bay berries, beach plums, cedars and other types of plants that are very hardy,” she said.
Blazer said the city has shared the expense to install infiltration trenches or alternative surfaces to trap water and reduce nuisance flooding with a number of condominiums constructed prior to the advent of stormwater management ordinances.
“We treat the water as opposed to it running off and creating over-nutrients in our bay,” she said.
Noting that excessive nutrients are the resorts’ primary water pollutant of concern, Blazer said Ocean City has also sponsored a rain barrel program.
“The people have been utilizing rain barrels to water their gardens or herb garden,” she said. “All these little micromanaging … projects help the overall water quality.”
Excessive nutrient levels in water, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous, feed the growth of algae blooms, Blazer said.
“Those algae blooms will make the water a different color [and] prevent sunlight from getting in,” she said.
Worse yet, Blazer said when the blooms die off, they consume oxygen, essentially causing marine life to suffocate.
“We haven’t had a huge problem with fish kills, because we’ve been doing a good job trying to reduce the [level] of nutrients out in the bay,” she said.
Unlike the nutrient-dependent algae blooms, native plants provided to resort property owners afford habitats for migratory animals seeking nourishment and shelter, Blazer said.
“People get engaged in the side projects,” she said. “They come back and want to plant every year [by] updating it [and] putting new plants in.”
Blazer said when multiple players each do a small part, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“You think what’s one rain barrel do, but when you have 200 out, it’s different,” she said. “Microscale that becomes macro when we have enough people doing it.”