DALLAS — Prince George's County, Md. will use a unique 30-year, public-private partnership to manage its efforts to reduce storm water runoff into Chesapeake Bay that does not require the massive tunnels and other infrastructure usually involved in water projects.
The agreement signed Nov. 19 with Corvias Solutions kicks off with a $100 million, three-year pilot program to maintain existing water retention facilities and replace impervious concrete and paving surfaces covering a total of 2,000 acres.
The project will provide grassy areas, porous pavement, and rain gardens to allow storm water to soak into the ground rather than carry pollutants into the bay.
Partners in the pilot program include the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment.
The 30-year agreement calls for the county to invest the $100 million to fund the initial three-year retrofit, with Corvias managing the design, construction, and long-term maintenance of the water management systems. It stipulates that local small and minority-owned businesses will be involved in at least 35% of the total project scope.
The pilot is intended to demonstrate the effectiveness of P3s in addressing complex infrastructure challenges, such as stormwater, said the officials involved in the program.
If the initial program is successful, it will be expanded to include more of the county's overall watershed implementation plan. The larger plan calls for the retrofit of 8,000 impervious acres by 2018 and another 7,000 acres by 2025. Total cost of the program is estimated at $1.2 billion.
Tad Davis, managing director of Corvias Solutions, said the county is a pioneer in the evolution of the P3 as a cost-effective solution for meeting federal regulatory requirements limiting nutrient runoff into sensitive areas such as Chesapeake Bay.
The P3 agreement is the first of its kind to address stormwater systems and will serve as a model for future endeavors by local governments in Maryland and beyond, Davis said.
The environment-friendly modular approach for stormwater retrofits that will be developed during the pilot program can save money and time on similar projects in the future, Davis said.
"As a privately held company, we can tackle Prince George's County's stormwater challenges in a way that traditional companies can't," Davis said. "In fact, we believe that our innovative P3 model will ultimately help redefine how stormwater challenges are addressed across this country."
The intent is to capture the first inch of rainfall or snow melt, which has the highest pollution content, and allow it to soak into the soil where it can be naturally filtered before winding up in underground aquifers or flowing into rivers that empty into the Chesapeake Bay, Davis said.
"What we're trying to do is address the most-polluted runoff," he said.
Corvias will see a return on its investment from fees and incentive payments from the county as program milestones are reached, Davis said.
"We're looking at a number of approaches to funding future phases because the county wants to keep the debt off its books," he said. "We think this approach will be particularly appealing to private investors."
The retrofit program is supported by the county's new stormwater fees on landowners with parking lots and other hard surfaces on their properties. Revenues from the fees, which are dedicated to stormwater control, totaled approximately $12 million in the first year.
Prince George's County is adjacent to the District of Columbia. It is the second-largest county in Maryland with more than 860,000 residents.
Adam Ortiz, director of the Prince George's County Department of the Environment, said the P3 will leverage the combined strengths of the private and public sectors and establish the county as a model for innovative stormwater management.
"Through this partnership, we will meet our clean water requirements with more speed, more jobs, and more savings," Ortiz said.