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Zero Waste of Time: Enhance your garden while protecting Chesapeake Bay waters

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Posted on: June 6, 2024

By JULIETTE FRADIN

Did you know you can fight pollution, clean Chesapeake Bay waters, provide food for birds and receive money for doing it? The Chesapeake Bay Trust in partnership with  Prince George’s County Stormwater Management Division will help you achieve all this through their Rain Check Rebate Program.

In 2010, the federal government required states to follow new Clean Water Act standards to manage stormwater runoff pollution, which results when rain (or snow melt) flows over impervious areas, such as rooftops, sidewalks, driveways, roadways and parking lots. Rain collects pollutants like oil, grease, sediment and nutrients that end up in local streams and rivers and eventually reach the Chesapeake Bay. 

The county developed its Rain Check Rebate Program in 2013 to encourage private residents, businesses, schools, cities and other contributors to participate. Homeowners can receive rebates up to $6,000 for completing projects that address water-related problems like ponding, erosion or pollution. These projects not only help our local ecosystem but also increase property value by beautifying yards and neighborhoods, while providing food and shelter to birds, butterflies and other insects. (See June’s “Miss Floribunda” response to a specific resident’s stormwater problem.)

Chesapeake Bay Trust staff will assist you from application to project completion. Applicants may complete multiple projects until the total maximum rebate amount is met. Here are the seven types of rebate-eligible projects:  

  • Rain barrels (at least 50 gallons) or cisterns (at least 250 gallons): Collect rainwater from rooftops, which you can then use to water lawns, gardens, and houseplants. You receive $2 per gallon stored. 
  • Rain gardens: These gardens capture and temporarily store stormwater runoff, allowing it to infiltrate the ground. They are shaped like a bowl where the deepest point collects the water and filters pollutants through plants. Rain gardens should contain native plants to ensure resilience to local climate changes, decreasing the amount of water needed for landscape maintenance and offering a sustainable habitat for native wildlife. They must be at least 100 square feet to receive $10 per installed square foot. 
  • Urban tree canopy: Trees catch falling rain, filter pollutants, absorb stormwater runoff, clean the air, and provide habitat and food for birds and pollinators. Trees must be a native species, at least 5 feet tall when planted, and be planted between October and May. Receive $150 per tree.
  • Pavement removal: Replace waterproof surfaces (like asphalt or concrete) with grass, native plants or permeable pavement. There is no minimum project size, and you receive $6 per square foot removed. You can do it yourself or hire a contractor. 
  • Permeable pavement:  Allow stormwater to soak into the ground using permeable interlocking paver systems, porous asphalt, or pervious concrete pavements. Also available are grass paver systems that allow grass to grow through a load-bearing grid that protects the root system. There is no minimum size for the project, but the pavement must be installed by a qualified contractor. You receive $12 per installed square foot.
  • Green roof:  A vegetated roof system that stores rainwater and reduces heating and cooling costs must be installed by a certified green roof contractor. You receive $10 per square foot installed.   

Once you are ready (or even just have a vague idea), visit cbtrust.org and fill out an application. For projects larger than rain barrels, the Chesapeake Bay Trust will process your application and conduct a pre-installation visit (online or in person) to pre-approve the project. They will want to see documents like a list of trees, contractor estimates, and photos of the area to ensure that you meet all  requirements before the project starts. 

Once pre-approved, you then have about 12 months to complete the project. Keep all your receipts and invoices to submit later. You will receive a rebate check four to six weeks after the project is completed and given final approval from the county’s Department of the Environment. 

In 2022, 12 grants were awarded, totaling $675,000, according to a county fact sheet. You can find a list of county-trained landscape professionals at cbtrust.org. Applications are accepted on an on-going basis.

Take advantage of this opportunity to enhance your garden, support water management, and contribute to a healthier Chesapeake Bay!


Juliette Fradin writes about eco-friendly living for the Life & Times.

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