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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Still think the "rain tax" is unnecessary?

    Earlier this year the so called "rain tax" in effect in counties that had tributaries which fed into the Chesapeake Bay threatened to hold up approval of the Maryland FY2015 budget.  Mostly conservative legislative members decried this government tax as being unnecessary.   The issue was resolved when Carroll and Frederick Counties were exempted from the tax and this placated legislators from these counties. 

    Fast forward to last week and Toledo, Ohio showed why the so called rain tax was needed.  The algae bloom in Lake Erie impacted the safety of the water supply for Toledo and surrounding areas.  For almost 2 days over 400,000 people found out that they couldn't drink the water coming out of the taps because of the algae bloom in Lake Erie near the water intake for the region's water supply.  The picture above shows what the algae looks like.  These algae blooms are caused by fertilizer used by home owners and farmers getting into the rivers and lakes as storm runoff.
     This problem can be seen in many water systems around the United States.

     Chesapeake Bay is vulnerable because of the increase in residential development near the streams and rivers in the states that supply much of the water to the Bay.  The picture below shows what these blooms look like in the Bay.

     The Chesapeake Bay was one of the first bodies of water that the Environmental Protection Agency looked at in addressing this issue.  The issue was mostly about the impact of the declining health of the Bay on the fishing and crabbing industries.  Here is what a report from the EPA said about the Bay:

"Studies completed in the 1970s documented that increases in agricultural development, population growth, and sewage treatment plant discharges were causing the Bay to become nutrient enriched. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two primary nutrients required to sustain aquatic biological productivity. Although phosphorus is the limiting nutrient in most freshwater systems, nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in most coastal estuarine and marine waters. As a result of elevated inputs, however, these nutrients are often present at concentrations in excess of basic nutrient requirements, causing excessive growth of phytoplankton and algae. This condition has two effects:
      In shallow areas, the excess algae block the sunlight that important submerged aquatic grasses need to grow. This degrades the habitat and causes the eventual loss of these grass beds.
In deeper areas, the decomposition of dead algae uses up available oxygen in the water. During the warm summer months, oxygen in the bottom waters can only be replenished slowly because little mixing with the high-oxygen surface water occurs. Many bottom-dwelling organisms such as oysters, clams, and worms, which provide food for fish and crabs, cannot survive this prolonged period of low oxygen.
      Nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay originate from point sources (e.g., municipal and industrial wastewater), nonpoint sources (e.g., cropland, animal wastes, urban and suburban runoff), and airborne contaminants, including inputs from states within the Bay watershed that are not signatories to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement (New York, West Virginia, and Delaware)."

    So what does this problem look like in Howard County?  Here are some pictures I have taken of Lake Elkhorn last year that shows the local picture of this problem.

     We all know where the water from Lake Elkhorn goes.  So the next time you hear someone grumbling about the "rain tax" just think about the pictures above and going without tap water.   Some legislators from some counties may want to stick their heads in the sand about this problem but it won't go away.  For some ways for home owners to address this runoff one of my past blogs gives some remedies.



Anonymous said...

So results and less run off is the desire and not another MD money grab? Prove it, give refunds to homeowners who use rain barrels and other collection devices to water their gardens, ponds and landscaping. Until MD offers something like that then it is still just another money grab disguised as a needed fix to the bay.

Anonymous said...

Maryland and its crooked politicians have been taxing its citizens for years , yet has failed to show any fiscal responsibility. Stop wasting taxpayer money frivolously and there would be ample resources for algae blooms and bay preservation

Anonymous said...

What really irks me is that most of the developments that cause this runoff were designed to do exactly that by the smart growth plans Md put into place. State regulations required all these drainage systems and now that they were built they come back now and want to tax owners because of what they required. All this drainage ponds are havens for insects that carry disease. Smart water management, save rainwater to use in landscaping gardens and such(Imagine actually planning grass areas in stead of swamps, since most O2 on the planet is made from grasses and not trees) Wait this would require politicians to stop listening to extremist environmental nut jobs and listen to actual scientist who do not fix data to keep their government funding. We should be good stewards of the environment but I am tied of politicians and so called scientist who benefit from screaming the sky is falling telling us what we need (Al gore has the largest carbon footprint of anyone but makes millions flying around telling us how bad it is)

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with the rain barrel comment and the tax happy comments about MD. Is the issue not related to big business/chicken farm runoffs? Oh that's right they get tax breaks for campaign contributions..

Anonymous said...

The Stormwater Fees are paid directly to the counties to reduce runoff. They are dedicated by law and can't be used for anything else. It can't be used by the state either. It has to be used by the County. The Counties have programs that give credit for installing rain barrels and rain gardens and other types of conservation practices.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a dedicated fund. ask the transportation fund, or the teachers pension fund or the state workers fund. The Boy Governor and his general assembly buddies can change such laws anytime to use the funds for an "emergency"

Anonymous said...

This bill would not have introduced if the fund was protected (I believe it failed to get a vote or was voted down

Anonymous said...
"What inquiring minds should ask is, what happened to all of the money that was supposed to go to the roads, bridges etc. that has been collected from all the taxes, fees and tolls that we have in place now? That's right folks, they took most of that money to pay for other things that they thought were more important for them to deal with, and now they come back to us and say we spent your money and we need you to pay for it all again. But now they say, trust we're not going to steal the money from the transportation fund again —unless of course they really need it."

Even the blind sun sees the problem when they promise to dedicate a tax

Anonymous said...

Do this instead, issue a fine for everyone blowing their grass clippings in the street. Almost everyone in my neighborhood does it. I'm talking $millions, many millions in fines, and you'll be charging the culprits causing some of the problems.

Anonymous said...

makes to much sense
MD democratic leaders do not want to punish guilty people(they might be voters) they only want to punish those that disagree with them.

Still we should be responsible regarding runoff even if politicians are not