At the end of August, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) proposed new Erosion & Sediment Control Regulations that will impact most land development activities across Maryland that disturb more than 5,000 square feet of land area and more than 100 cubic yards of earth.  The proposed regulations generally provide that no grading or building permit may be issued for a project unless an erosion & sediment control plan drafted in accordance with its requirements is first approved.

Notably, these new proposed regulations provide for the following:

  • Inclusion of a ‘grading unit’ definition limiting the maximum contiguous area allowed to be graded on a site at a given time to 20 acres.  The handbook directs that work may begin on a second grading unit only when 50% of the first grading unit has been stabilized and approved by the appropriate enforcement authority.
  • Permitted mining activities and landfill operations are excluded from the 20 acre grading unit limitation.
  • With the exception of those areas undergoing active grading, all perimeter controls, dikes, swales, ditches, perimeter slopes and slopes steeper than 3:1 must be stabilized within three calendar days; all other disturbed areas must be stabilized within seven calendar days. 

The MDE anticipates finalizing these regulations before January 1, 2012.  Once finalized, the delegated local counties and authorities have six months to provide MDE with their own local erosion & sediment control ordinances modeled on the new state regulations for approval, and one year to enact those local ordinances.  At this time it is unclear when delegated counties and authorities will apply any new requirements in the final regulations to erosion & sediment control plans submitted for review and approval.  Based on precedent, parties submitting erosion & sediment control plans for review and approval after the date of the MDE regulation’s final approval (expected before January 1, 2012) will likely need to meet the regulation’s requirements. 

These proposed regulations are a re-issued version of those first presented in October 2009 and then formally proposed on August 27, 2010.  After stakeholder groups provided significant comment and feedback to the August 2010 proposed regulations the MDE determined it was necessary to re-propose the regulations.  A copy of the new proposed regulations can be found here.  In addition, the MDE has published on its website a draft version of its ‘2011 Maryland Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control’ guidance handbook.  This handbook is incorporated by reference in the proposed regulations and serves “as the official guide for erosion and sediment control principles, methods and practices.”

In general, the proposed regulations and the referenced handbook incorporate some of the same themes and practices as required by Maryland’s recently strengthened stormwater laws and regulations.  They do so by limiting the extent of disturbed areas, by accelerating the timeframe in which disturbed areas must be stabilized, and by stressing ‘Environmental Site Design’ practices in erosion and sediment control plans.  These proposed regulations are also intended to provide a means by which the state will comply with the ‘pollution diet’ imposed by the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for discharges of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus to impaired waterways in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

The MDE will host a public hearing on this proposed regulation at its offices located at 1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230 at 10:00 AM on Friday, September 16, 2011.  Written comments on these proposed regulations will be accepted through September 26, 2011.