The Howard County stormwater team spans numerous departments and agencies. While each group’s mission is unique, this team works together to improve stormwater runoff management through policies, planning, design, construction, and maintenance of the infrastructure that collects, treats, and releases stormwater.
The Office of Community Sustainability (OCS) is responsible for Howard County's overall stormwater policy. OCS:
- Coordinates activities among other agency team members.
- Oversees community outreach and education programs.
- Manages the Watershed Protection Fee and related programs, including the various fee reimbursement and credit programs for property owners that install on-site stormwater practices.
The Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) oversees the review of all new land development plans, making sure that new construction meets county and state requirements for density, safety, utilities, and stormwater management.
Within DPZ, the Resource Conservation Division performs research and gathers data used in policy decisions regarding watershed-based planning.
Before any construction can take place, the DPZ's Development Engineering Division evaluates the engineering plans to ensure that both during and after construction, the proposed designs meet all code requirements and will adequately protect our water resources.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) Bureau of Environmental Services, Stormwater Management Division (SWMD)
SWMD is responsible for defining new stormwater construction needs, managing that construction, and performing routine maintenance inspections on all constructed stormwater controls, including public and privately owned.
In addition, SWMD staff manages the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit. This permit, issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment, is the blueprint the County must follow to meet Maryland's stormwater mandates. Over 75 percent of the funds collected through the Watershed Protection Fee are managed by SWMD for:
- Construction of new stormwater facilities.
- Restoration of streams eroded by uncontrolled runoff.
- Retrofit of existing structures with designs to improve water quality and quantity management.
During and at the completion of both public and private construction projects, CID staff undertakes inspections to ensure that the zoning, building, safety, and environmental codes are met. CID inspects all sediment and erosion control during construction and ensures that all stormwater management practices are constructed as designed.
The Howard Soil Conservation District, often thought of as an agricultural community resource, plays an important role in preventing soil erosion from new and existing developments throughout the County. HSCD reviews sediment and erosion control plans and small pond designs for all proposed developments in the County to ensure loose sediment and nutrients on development sites are not running into our streams and water bodies.
HSCD staff provides one-on-one assistance to homeowners, community associations, and County departments with natural resource problems and questions. HSCD is uniquely positioned to call on the expertise of cooperating state and federal agencies in addressing natural resource issues identifying grants and loans as appropriate. HSCD also works closely with agriculturally assessed properties to develop Soil Conservation and Water Quality Plans to ensure minimum stormwater, sediment, and nutrient runoff impacts to our local streams.
One of the many responsibilities of the Bureau of Highway Services is to maintain the thousands of stormwater structures and hundreds of stormwater ponds scattered across the county. Often responding to inspection results from the SWMD, Highway Services crews clean clogged inlets, scour swales, and dredge ponds to ensure that stormwater travels through the system as designed, to maximize absorption and water quality treatment.
In addition, Highway Services performs routine street sweeping to remove grit and debris that otherwise would be washed into area ponds and streams. Timely and thorough maintenance of this entire stormwater infrastructure system is fundamental to its proper operation. A significant portion of the Watershed Protection Fee is used by Highway Services to fund infrastructure maintenance tasks.
Since 2012, PATH (People Acting Together for Howard) and their partner the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, with the financial backing of a grant from Howard County Government, hired and trained about 40 young adults each year who learned how to develop green solutions to stormwater management issues. Also working with the Alliance were the Parks and People Foundation and the Maryland Sea Grant program. The READY team members used their new knowledge to build facilities that reduced the storm runoff that carries sediment and pollutants to our Howard County streams and the Chesapeake Bay. In the first two summers the young adults built rain management facilities to control stormwater runoff from 8 acres of impervious land.
Check out this video of READY digging a rain garden!
In addition to these agencies, the Howard County stormwater team relies on the support of the Department of Finance in billing for the Watershed Protection Fund, and the Office of Law that advises on all legal aspects of the programs from legislation to permits to enforcement.