The Restoration Fund is now a semifinalist for the prestigious Innovations in American Government Award—often referred to as the "Oscars" of government prizes—and is eligible to win one of seven $100,000 grants.
Enacted by Maryland in 2004, the Bay Restoration Fund is the considered to be the most innovative environmental legislation enacted by any Bay watershed jurisdiction in the past two decades. It aims to remove nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater treatment plant effluent to state-of-the-art levels. Under fund, all public sewer service customers pay a fee of $2.50 per month while On-Site Disposal System (OSDS) or septic system users pay $30 annually. The fee paid by sewage treatment plant users provides the funding necessary to upgrade the state's 66 largest sewage treatment plants to achieve Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR), which is the most advanced wastewater treatment technology available. The fee paid by OSDS users funds OSDS upgrades and implementation of cover crop plantings to reduce nitrogen loading to the Bay.
The fund is expected to result in a 7.5 million pound annual reduction in nitrogen and a 260,000 pound annual reduction in phosphorus loading to Chesapeake Bay. Excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, lead to degraded water quality, which negatively impacts the ecology of the Bay and its tributaries.
One facility (Celanese, Allegany County) has completed construction, is fully upgraded and achieving ENR treatment levels. Construction of ENR technology is underway at seven wastewater treatment plants, in the design phase at 12 others and in the planning stage for 29 more.
The top 50 innovations, representing government at the federal, tribal, state, county and city levels, were selected for their novelty and creativity, effectiveness at addressing significant issues and problems, and ability to be replicated by other jurisdictions. Innovations considered for the recognition are in the areas of education and training, criminal justice and public safety, economic and community development, housing, health and social services, management, transportation, public works and environment.
Eighteen finalists will be chosen from the 50 and announced on May 4 during Public Service Recognition Week. The National Selection Committee on Innovation in American Government will select five winners, in addition to two special awards: the Annie E. Casey Foundation Innovations Award for Children and Family Services, and the Fannie Mae Foundation Award for Innovation in Affordable Housing. All seven winners will be announced on July 10 in Washington, DC.
This story was published on March 24, 2006.