In July 2014, the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland (EFC) began a one-year project in the City of College Park to provide technical assistance on their stormwater management program. Under the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) of the U.S. EPA, the city is considered a Phase II permitted municipality located within a Phase I permitted jurisdiction, Prince George’s County. The city has opted to pay into the county’s stormwater fee program and in return, to rely on the county for assistance managing certain aspects of the city’s stormwater program, stormwater projects, and permit responsibilities.
The city’s arrangement with Prince George’s County has many advantages, including reduced administrative burden on the city and the potential for more efficient and impactful stormwater capital improvement projects. Nonetheless, some risks and questions remained from the city’s perspective. First, while city property owners began paying the stormwater fee in 2014, it was somewhat unclear what they should expect in return. Second, regardless of stormwater services and projects administered by the county in the City of College Park, the city retains some minimum control measure responsibilities under its Phase II permit. As a result of this complex arrangement of shared city-county permit responsibilities, and the split city-county stormwater fee revenue/expenditure structure, there is a high probability for misunderstood responsibilities, misaligned expectations, unaddressed stormwater issues, and inefficient capital investment.
The EFC sought to use this project as an opportunity to ensure that (1) the city understands the responsibilities it retains under its Phase II permit and has feasible compliance strategies, and (2) the city has a means to efficiently and credibly communicate to the county about stormwater services and/or capital projects that will benefit the College Park community. The second of these goals is based on the stormwater fee being collected from city property-owners by the county, and the subsequent expectation that the community will want those funds to be spent efficiently, effectively, and equitably. Under this framework, the EFC provided the following elements of technical assistance to the city:
- Conducted outreach and education within the community to both assess community attitudes and priorities and demonstrate how future outreach and education efforts can be designed to meet permit requirements;
- Developed a mapping process to identify areas in the city where high community benefits could be achieved through the strategic investment of county stormwater dollars;
- Evaluated infrastructure funding and the capital improvement planning process to identify opportunities that will create efficiencies and leverage funds in support of stormwater management; and,
- Performed a level of service assessment of existing Phase II permit activities and developed a budget designed to enable the city to more comprehensively meet these responsibilities.