Berlin To Soon Hear Suggestions For Flooding Woes

BERLIN — Months after beginning a stormwater feasibility study in Berlin, representatives of the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center (UMEFC) announced that the process is nearing completion.

“We are just about in the last quarter of this project,” promised (UMEFC) Program Manager Megan Hughes during a Historic District Commission (HDC) meeting Wednesday.

Hughes did not sugarcoat the realities of what the town is currently facing in regards to persistent flooding issues.

“As you know, Berlin has a really incredible stormwater problem,” she told the HDC.

According to Hughes, several factors contribute to the issue, including a population boost of 30 percent in town since 1990, a lack of operations and maintenance programs for stormwater infrastructure and not having a sustainable source of funding to address problems.

Hughes told the commission that not combating stormwater leads to obstacles not only for the town, but to a negative impact on the environment through uncontrolled runoff.

“It runs right into the bay,” she explained, noting that Berlin is within the Trappe Creek watershed and thus spills stormwater into Newport Bay.

Since beginning the feasibility study in June 2011, Hughes said that a lot of progress has been made in coming up with strategies to mitigate stormwater. There were a string of community meetings last fall to discuss stormwater in each of Berlin’s five districts, as well as a photo contest that Hughes felt contributed a lot to UMEFC’s understanding of how bad the issue actually is.

“It really got people talking about concerns they have in their neighborhoods,” she said of the outreach programs.

Hughes revealed that UMEFC is drafting a “priority list” of which areas in Berlin suffer the most from flooding as well as strategies on how to affordably combat the issue.

Some of the biggest concerns Hughes said her team has heard during the meetings involve fears over how new development might impact stormwater problems, how standing water can create health hazards, the damage to property as a result of flooding and the management of litter and debris.

“We found Berliners really do have a lot of pride in the community,” she said.

When the study ends this spring, Hughes told the commission that her team will have ideas ready to present to town leadership. In the meantime, she promised to keep interacting with the community to learn more about how residents view stormwater.

“We’ll continue to do outreach throughout the project,” she said.