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Baltimore County leaders to consider a new way to pay for cost of climate change

Flooding is seen in Baltimore County's Turner Station.
Courtesy of Turner Station resident Olivia Lomax
Flooding is seen in Baltimore County's Turner Station.

Paying for damage done by climate change can cost local governments big bucks. The Baltimore County Council is considering establishing a resilience authority to help finance climate change-related projects. Extreme weather from flooding that washes out roads or overloads drainage pipes or excessive heat that wears down roadways and other structures maintained by the county is already a mounting cost.

Jenn Aiosa, Baltimore County’s chief sustainability officer, said the resilience authority would help them pay for climate change projects long term, rather than relying on the county’s annual budget.

“We really need to think more holistically about how we can provide predictable revenue to do the kind of work we know is needed,” Aiosa said.

County officials have not put a dollar tag on the cost of climate change so far. 

In 2020, the Maryland General Assemblypassed legislation that enables local municipalities like Baltimore County to create these resilience authorities.

“Solely relying on general funds and occasional supplemental grants is neither sustainable, nor adequate, to meet the county's needs,” according to an executive summary prepared for the council on the proposal.

The resilience authority would be able to do things like issue bonds, levy fees and go after grants.

The county council is deciding whether to pay a consultant, Throwe Environmental LLC, up to $250,000 to set up the authority. A vote is expected next week.

Part of the resilience authority’s mission would be to determine what infrastructure is at risk. If the county council approves the contract, that work would begin in January 2023 with a final report expected in October.

Throwe helped Annapolis and Anne Arundel County establish a resilience authority and thecounty chipped in $1 million to get the organization started. The authority’s 10 member board of directors was selected in September.

The board “will help the authority secure funding opportunities and implement meaningful projects to prepare the county for sea level rise, increased flooding, heat waves and other extreme weather events,” according to a news release.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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