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News

Two key upgrades for Berlin coming to reduce flooding

5/29/14 | By Josh Davis, Staff Writer

BERLIN– Two key upgrades in storm water systems could be coming in the next year in an attempt to drastically reduce the flooding problems that have plagued the town for decades.

The Hudson Branch Storm Water Project includes upgrades on Williams and Flower streets. West Street received a similar upgrade last year.

“I’ve been here 23 years and it’s always been an issue,” said Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter. “The problem intensified recently because we had a tremendous amount of growth in places like Henry’s Mill, Henry’s Green and Decatur Farms.”

Tightened regulations by the Maryland Department of the Environment over the last four years made the problem difficult to deal with.

“They revised their stormwater manual and guideline to include environmental site design – basically more environmentally friendly features – so designs after that point had to incorporate those,” said consulting stormwater engineer Darl Kolar.

Kreiter said the new regulations have been a nationwide issue, and that Berlin sought to comply with the regulations before they were mandated to.

“Obviously EPA and MDE are focusing on the larger impact to the stormwater issue, which would be larger, urban areas, but the writing’s on the wall,” she said. “But it’s all a matter of time before it trickles down.

“In Berlin we like to think of ourselves as proactive and environmental, and we do realize that we have a beautiful area that we live in that we need to protect and preserve, not to mention that it’s a huge economic boost,” she continued. “We have to preserve the quality of the water in our coastal bays for generations, but also for the economy.”

Kolar said the West Street upgrades led to significant reductions in flooding and an increase in water quality.

“It provided immediate relief,” he said.

“It was a ditch and now there’s actually fish – there’s actually wildlife in this area right in the middle of town,” Kreiter said. “Obviously the water quality has benefited as well as the flooding issues – I wouldn’t say they’ve been completely abated, but they’ve been drastically reduced.”

The upgrades to Williams and Flower streets could have a similar impact on the areas of Graham, Nelson and Grice streets. The town was awarded a FEMA grant for the Williams Street project from FEMA, and hopes to secure a similar grant for Flower Street.

“The West Street project was 100 percent funded,” Kolar said. “We have another one for the Williams Street which we hope is 100 percent funded, but we won’t know until we get bids for the contractors. And then we don’t have anything in writing, but we’re getting some very positive verbal feedback of more substantial grants for (Flower Street).

“Based on the town’s initiative and the stormwater program, the funding agencies are being very responsive,” he continued. “They initially said, ‘if you get this up and running you’ll be first in line and you’ll have an opportunity for funding.’ That’s what we’re seeing now.”

The town sought grants for the Hudson Branch Stormwater Project last year, but was denied.

Both projects are currently in the design process. Once the designs are completed the town will need to secure permits.

“In terms of permitting you’ll include local Worcester Soil Conservation District and you’ll need the Maryland Department of the Environment – when you’re working with coastal waters of the state you need to let them know,” Kolar said. “If you’re doing any kind of upgrade they want to see the actual modeling and computation.”

Kolar said the impact of the improvements should be immediately apparent.

“The measure of success will be very physical,” he said. “During a rain event two years ago if you went out on West Street it was impassable; the town would have to put up barricades. If you asked any one of those residents on the four corners what it was like they had a foot of water in their garage. Now it passes through completely.”

“We’re not saying all flooding is gone, but we certainly have reduced the probability,” Kreiter said.

Construction is expected to begin within the next year, and both officials are confident the upgrades, which are estimated to cost approximately $4 million, will be partially or totally paid for by grants.

Berlin created a decided Stormwater Department last July. The department has received mostly positive reviews from the public.

“In all honesty most people embraced it even though there is a fee” said Kreiter. “Some people call it a ‘rain tax’ and they can call it whatever they want, but we have a responsibility to this planet and to our residents to help prevent flooding and to have clean water. It’s a nominal fee – $50 a year for residential – which equates to $4.16 a month. That was embraced.

“Commercially it’s a bit of a different setup. It depends on the amount of impervious surface, which means how much they contribute to the stormwater runoff on the property, because it can’t percolate down. Most of the commercial properties were good with it, but we did have a few that were a little upset. Anything new is difficult for some people to embrace.”

The department considers the West Street upgrade an unequivocal success, and the project will be a model for the additional upgrades going forward.

“West Street completely did a 180,” said Kolar.

“And it’s attractive, the water quality is great and we’ve had no instances of flooding since it was installed,” said Kreiter.

Berlin sought citizen support for the Hudson Branch Stormwater Project during a public hearing on Tuesday during the Mayor and Council Meeting. Members of the public were encouraged to attend the meeting and to comment or ask questions about the grant application.  BERLIN– Two key upgrades in storm water systems could be coming in the next year in an attempt to drastically reduce the flooding problems that have plagued the town for decades.

The Hudson Branch Storm Water Project includes upgrades on Williams and Flower streets. West Street received a similar upgrade last year.

“I’ve been here 23 years and it’s always been an issue,” said Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter. “The problem intensified recently because we had a tremendous amount of growth in places like Henry’s Mill, Henry’s Green and Decatur Farms.”

Tightened regulations by the Maryland Department of the Environment over the last four years made the problem difficult to deal with.

“They revised their stormwater manual and guideline to include environmental site design – basically more environmentally friendly features – so designs after that point had to incorporate those,” said consulting stormwater engineer Darl Kolar.

Kreiter said the new regulations have been a nationwide issue, and that Berlin sought to comply with the regulations before they were mandated to.

“Obviously EPA and MDE are focusing on the larger impact to the stormwater issue, which would be larger, urban areas, but the writing’s on the wall,” she said. “But it’s all a matter of time before it trickles down.

“In Berlin we like to think of ourselves as proactive and environmental, and we do realize that we have a beautiful area that we live in that we need to protect and preserve, not to mention that it’s a huge economic boost,” she continued. “We have to preserve the quality of the water in our coastal bays for generations, but also for the economy.”

Kolar said the West Street upgrades led to significant reductions in flooding and an increase in water quality.

“It provided immediate relief,” he said.

“It was a ditch and now there’s actually fish – there’s actually wildlife in this area right in the middle of town,” Kreiter said. “Obviously the water quality has benefited as well as the flooding issues – I wouldn’t say they’ve been completely abated, but they’ve been drastically reduced.”

The upgrades to Williams and Flower streets could have a similar impact on the areas of Graham, Nelson and Grice streets. The town was awarded a FEMA grant for the Williams Street project from FEMA, and hopes to secure a similar grant for Flower Street.

“The West Street project was 100 percent funded,” Kolar said. “We have another one for the Williams Street which we hope is 100 percent funded, but we won’t know until we get bids for the contractors. And then we don’t have anything in writing, but we’re getting some very positive verbal feedback of more substantial grants for (Flower Street).

“Based on the town’s initiative and the stormwater program, the funding agencies are being very responsive,” he continued. “They initially said, ‘if you get this up and running you’ll be first in line and you’ll have an opportunity for funding.’ That’s what we’re seeing now.”

The town sought grants for the Hudson Branch Stormwater Project last year, but was denied.

Both projects are currently in the design process. Once the designs are completed the town will need to secure permits.

“In terms of permitting you’ll include local Worcester Soil Conservation District and you’ll need the Maryland Department of the Environment – when you’re working with coastal waters of the state you need to let them know,” Kolar said. “If you’re doing any kind of upgrade they want to see the actual modeling and computation.”

Kolar said the impact of the improvements should be immediately apparent.

“The measure of success will be very physical,” he said. “During a rain event two years ago if you went out on West Street it was impassable; the town would have to put up barricades. If you asked any one of those residents on the four corners what it was like they had a foot of water in their garage. Now it passes through completely.”

“We’re not saying all flooding is gone, but we certainly have reduced the probability,” Kreiter said.

Construction is expected to begin within the next year, and both officials are confident the upgrades, which are estimated to cost approximately $4 million, will be partially or totally paid for by grants.

Berlin created a decided Stormwater Department last July. The department has received mostly positive reviews from the public.

“In all honesty most people embraced it even though there is a fee” said Kreiter. “Some people call it a ‘rain tax’ and they can call it whatever they want, but we have a responsibility to this planet and to our residents to help prevent flooding and to have clean water. It’s a nominal fee – $50 a year for residential – which equates to $4.16 a month. That was embraced.

“Commercially it’s a bit of a different setup. It depends on the amount of impervious surface, which means how much they contribute to the stormwater runoff on the property, because it can’t percolate down. Most of the commercial properties were good with it, but we did have a few that were a little upset. Anything new is difficult for some people to embrace.”

The department considers the West Street upgrade an unequivocal success, and the project will be a model for the additional upgrades going forward.

“West Street completely did a 180,” said Kolar.

“And it’s attractive, the water quality is great and we’ve had no instances of flooding since it was installed,” said Kreiter.

Berlin sought citizen support for the Hudson Branch Stormwater Project during a public hearing on Tuesday during the Mayor and Council Meeting. Members of the public were encouraged to attend the meeting and to comment or ask questions about the grant application. 

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