BERLIN — People who will or have taken photos of flooding around town are running out of time to enter them in the photo contest sponsored by the Town of Berlin and the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center (UMEFC). The photo contest, which ends 5 p.m. Friday, was designed to raise awareness about and support for the Berlin’s newest storm water management initiative.
UMEFC, Grow Berlin Green, the Town Creek Foundation and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources joined with the Town of Berlin in sponsoring the photo contest, which will be judged by residents during the 2nd Friday Art Stroll and Oktoberfest, Friday and Saturday Oct. 14-15, respectively.
As of early this week, however, only four entries had been received — three at Town Hall and one via electronic submission.
Sharon Timmons, the administrative assistant at Town Hall, said she was a little surprised that more residents hadn’t come out to participate in the event, but suggested it was like going to the doctor with a pain and not having it when you are examined. There hasn’t been much rain since the contest’s announcement and she thought it was possible that people hadn’t kept their flood photos from the last serious flood.
The contest was conceived as a way to get residents more involved with the storm water management plan, especially since its cost may be significant and will affect everyone who lives in town.
Megan Hughes, program manager for UMEFC said the project’s aim was to seek ways of coming into compliance with state storm water management requirements in as economical a way as possible.
Although much of the focus so far has been about the potential green solutions for some of the flooding, Hughes stressed that foremost among UMEFC’s goals is securing funding for the proposed projects.
There is no question that whatever the solution or combination of solutions happens to be, it will be expensive. By coming up with a plan that demonstrates that the town is willing to try multiple approaches aimed at reducing the overall cost, it not only makes it more attractive to state and federal agencies that provide grants, it also minimizes whatever part of the bill is left to taxpayers.
Some of the easiest and most effective ideas residents can adapt are participation in the Berlin Rain Barrel Program and considering the addition of personal rain gardens, especially in areas where flooding is a regular problem.
Rain gardens make use of a property’s natural propensity to have water gather in a particular low spot. But rather than have the water just lay their indefinitely, the rain garden uses the water to remain a self-sustaining feature. In addition to helping trap and concentrate storm water, the rain gardens use any of the nutrients in the water for food, essentially acting as filters and protecting local streams from being affected by run-off.
Civic options include engineering best management practices (BMP) when it comes to new developments and suggestions about improvements that will help the town defray the cost associated with the more expensive traditional methods of putting in more pipes and redirecting water to other section of town.
Among the more common solutions are swales — kind of like a ditch, but with a gentle slope — that accept storm water and slow it’s speed while also filtering out nutrients. Although swales are generally depicted as having grass alone, they sometimes use trees and small shrubbery as both beautification and filtration devices between the street and the sidewalk.
Another novel BMP solution is encouraging the use of permeable pavers that allow water to percolate down rather than forcing it to run off.
The thrust behind the attempt at solving the storm water problem was state legislation passed this May that required environmental site design (ESD) to the maximum extent practicable (MEP) and put the onus for development and enforcement of these programs on the localities.
Town Water Resources Manager Jane Kreiter said that as storm water runoff becomes a bigger threat to waterways, the pressure for towns to reduce their contributions into streams and rivers increases. Although Berlin is not at this point yet, Kreiter said there may well be a future in which storm water management comes tight total daily maximum load (TMDL) limits in much the way TMDLs are measured at wastewater treatment plants.
By getting out ahead of a future that is almost certainly coming, Berlin expects not only to position itself in such a way as to reduce the costs to residents, but also in a way that is more friendly to potential development.
Although some in the building community voiced concerns at the time that the ESD would drive up costs, a town that already has clear and inexpensive practices in place will be all the more attractive.