Editor's Note: The South River Federation contacted Center Maryland and asked for an opportunity to respond to recent opinion pieces published on the state's proposed new stormwater regulations.

By Erik Michelsen

In the month since the legislative session began in Annapolis, there has already been a tremendous amount of discussion and debate about new stormwater regulations, the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and the ailing economy. Some have attempted to couch the discussion as one of jobs versus the environment. Those of us working on our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay on a daily basis recognize that’s a false choice.

One needed to look no further than the groups of watermen huddled on Lawyer’s Mall in January, asking the legislature to take urgent action to save their jobs, jobs endangered because of abysmal water quality and the continued degradation of the Chesapeake, to understand that Maryland jobs and the health of the Bay go hand-in-hand.

New regulations going forward will help to cushion the blow from the continued development of the watershed, but the environmental community agrees wholeheartedly with the building community that new revenue structures and programs need to be put in place in order that we can begin addressing the existing sources of nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake. To that end, the environmental community, in concert with a number of prominent members of the building industry, is supporting the Watershed Protection and Restoration Act that is being introduced by Senator Raskin and Delegates Hucker and Cardin in Annapolis this session.

Current estimates are that the backlog of stormwater-related infrastructure damage exceeds $20 billion statewide in Maryland. That’s almost $1 billion in increasing obligations for each county in the state. If this work is not accomplished, local jurisdictions and the state will continue to fail to meet their clean water goals and will be vulnerable to fines and other penalties from the federal government, one of which could include revoking the right to issue new permits. Now that’s something that would be bad for jobs.

Rather than delay or defer any longer, we have come together to support the creation of local, dedicated stormwater funds, that will help cities and counties better manage their stormwater, clean up our creeks, streams, and rivers, and re-invest in our failing infrastructure. By our estimates, the passage of the Watershed Protection and Restoration Act could result in over 6,500 new engineering, design, and construction jobs in Maryland on an annual basis, all in the name of clean water and a healthier Chesapeake. Why have just jobs or a healthy Bay when we can have one in the service of the other?

Erik Michelsen is Executive Director of the South River Federation.

Here are opinion pieces on stormwater regulations previously published by Center Maryland:

Builders: Are Jobs Really a Priority?

VIDEO: Jim Smith on stormwater regulations

A threat to Smart Growth