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Environmental Assets talks drainage plans

Ocean Pines Environment & Natural Assets Committee board liaison Tom Janasek, top, reviewed details of a recent meeting with Maryland Coastal Bays Program officials, attended by OPA leadership, surrounding state funding for water quality improvements during the groups last meeting on Nov. 13.

By Greg Ellison

Staff Writer

(Nov. 21, 2019) Ocean Pines Environment & Natural Assets Committee board liaison Tom Janasek provided further details on efforts to work with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program to secure state funding for water quality improvements during the group’s meeting last Wednesday.

Janasek joined OPA President Doug Parks and Operations Director Colby Phillips for a meeting the week before with Maryland Coastal Bays’ officials. The session also was attended by representatives from Ocean City, Snow Hill, Pocomoke and the Lower Shore Land Trust.

“All the players in Worcester County were there,” he said.

Overseeing the coastal bays meeting on Nov. 7 was Bryan Seipp, a watershed manager from the Center for Watershed Protection, whose services have been retained to identify the highest priority projects to improve water quality in Worcester County, with the financial backing of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

“Maryland Coastal Bays, with a $30,000 grant from DNR has hired an … engineering firm to look into dispersing the grant money within Worcester County,” he said.

Janasek said a study is underway on how to alleviate Ocean Pines longstanding drainage problems and flooding concerns.

“We have an engineering firm that is putting together a program to work on Bainbridge Park to get the drainage issues fixed,” he said.

Committee member Marty Clarke said regardless of the that study by Vista Engineering, previous comparable efforts have failed to produce viable solutions.

“Is this just another case of we didn’t get the answer we wanted, so let’s try it again?” he said.

Janasek, while acknowledging the checkered past in terms of addressing water retention issues, said Phillips and Public Works Operations Manager Nobie Violante have taken a more hands-on approach with the current evaluation.

“They’re actually on site physically walking and working with the engineer and doing surveys,” he said. “He’s not only doing the study, he’s telling you where to start and how to manage.”

For now, the various municipalities and environmental organizations in Worcester County have been asked to develop project proposals to present Seipp, with site review for up to six locations slated for March

“From that, they will pick one to three to present, to mostly DNR, but also other entities,” he said. “The big money is with Department of Natural Resources.

“By May, they should be able to present their findings and what they think is the best property to get the biggest bang for the buck,” he said. “They’re going to look at the properties and look at what we have to offer in ways of dispersing water flow to keep our (St. Martin) river clean.”

Although uncertainties still abound, initial conversations have centered on a primary problem spot in Ocean Pines.

“They’re going to focus on Bainbridge Park, because that’s where our biggest issues are with flooding and overflow of ground water,” he said.

Possible solutions include expanding the adjacent retention pond and installing a tiered step system for water filtration, as well as installing floating wetlands in nearby canals.

“There’s a system you can put in the culvert at Bainbridge to actually filter the water as it’s going through,” he said.

Geographical deviations could weigh in favor of Ocean Pines, with Janasek noting that Ocean City, for instance, lacks open green spaces to direct excessive water runoff.

“All [Ocean City] can do is maintain what they have or increase the space on some of the big culvert drains,” he said. “Ocean Pines, on the other hand, has tons and tons of park space.”

In total, Janasek estimated Ocean Pines has 19 undevelopable lots, which could be used for rain gardens or other water filtration methods.

Janasek also said the study being conducted by Vista Engineering study, while financed by Ocean Pines, could be paid through state grants if awarded.

“The grant through DNR, we can get credit for work we’ve already done,” he said.

To bolster the probability of Ocean Pines’ project proposals being selected, Janasek said Phillips and Violante would present the results of the Vista Engineering drainage study to the engineers consulting with coastal bays.

“They’re going to sit down and show them our plan and basically eliminate a lot of site work,” he said.

To further pitch the Pines’ cause in the recent meeting with Seipp and coastal bays, Janasek presented water quality testing data related to bacteria levels from the past two years provided through Assateague Coastal Trust in Berlin.

“It’s not overflow from farms, but that bacteria is a direct correlation to the amount of nitrogen that gets into our waterways,” he said.

Janasek also said increasing the percentage of pervious surfaces, in light of the abundance of properties with asphalt and concrete driveways, is another improvement to reduce water run off issues.

“That might be something else you want to take up as a topic of discussion because the more land you cover, the more run off you have [and] the less places there are for water to soak up,” he said.