Baltimore Trying New Tack to Pay for Costly Stormwater Projects

Sourced from the Bay Journal

Baltimore is slated to be the second city in the Chesapeake Bay region to try a novel way of financing its costly water pollution reduction projects under a plan announced Monday by city officials and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

City officials said that with assistance provided through the Bay Foundation, they expect to issue up to $6.2 million in “environmental impact bonds” later this year to help pay for green infrastructure projects aimed at managing stormwater in more than three dozen neighborhoods.

“Baltimore can and, we predict, will be a model for innovation in pollution reduction,” declared Bay Foundation President Will Baker at a news conference announcing the deal in West Baltimore by the site of one of the planned projects. “It’s a partnership with nature to save dollars and reduce pollution.”

The Annapolis-based Bay Foundation hired Quantified Ventures, an “impact” investment advisory firm based in Washington, DC, to work with Baltimore to structure the bond deal. 

Rudy Chow, the city’s public works director, said officials were looking to diversify the city’s borrowing as it attempts to curtail polluted runoff at the source. Baltimore is required by federal and state regulators to reduce and treat polluted runoff from more than 4,000 acres of pavement and buildings across the city by 2019.

Instead of building holding tanks and other hard infrastructure to collect and treat stormwater, city officials hope to use nature — by replacing asphalt and concrete pavement with grassy areas that can soak up rainfall and the pollutants it picks up. They have identified about 90 greening projects they intend to complete by year’s end to enhance neighborhood’s quality of life while also reducing runoff.

The overall cost is projected to be $10.3 million, with the rest to be financed through traditional municipal borrowing.

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