Highway tree plantings

Traveling the major thoroughfares in Frederick County recently you can’t help but notice a lot of new tree plantings.

The State Highway Administration is planting 15,000 trees along Frederick County roadsides over the next five years to cut back on runoff from roadways entering waterways and ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. According to Mr. Charlie Gischlar, Public Information Officer with State Highway Administration who supplied much of the information for this article, the SHA began a project last spring to plant thousands of trees within state right of ways in Frederick, Carroll and Howard Counties and elsewhere throughout the state.

Credit: Unknown

The impetus of this program was a mandate by the Environmental Protection Agency known as TMDL or Total Minimum Daily Load. The TMDL is the maximum level of pollutant that can be discharged to a body of water without it causing it to exceed water quality standards. TMDLs were established under the EPA’s Clean Water Act and have been adopted by many federal, state, and local agencies across the country.

In response to complying with the TMDL mandate, the State Highway Administration developed a statewide program designed to reduce 75 percent of the nitrogen, phosphorus, sediments, and other pollutants from entering our waterways and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

The SHA intends to do this by planting more than 679,000 trees on 2,717 acres, restoring 62,513 lineal feet of streams, removing 76 acres of pavement, upgrading 13 storm water outfalls, and constructing or upgrading 1,780 storm water treatment facilities throughout the state. To these ends, the SHA has invested nearly 600 million dollars in its six-year capitol budget from 2015 until 2020. The SHA expects to plant 15,700 trees along Frederick County thoroughfares.

The latest tree plantings have been along Md. 194 near Walkersville. State Highway Administration expects to plant 1,570 trees on 6.3 acres between Fountain Rock Road and Gruber Road as part of this project. Some of the trees and shrubs that are being planted along MD 194 include sycamore, white oak, redbud, holly, and red maple.

Numerous other varieties will be planted in other locations with tree and shrub selection being dependent on local environmental factors. These trees will absorb a significant amount of the nutrients and pollutants that are running off the roads after a rain event. The root systems will hold soil in place and the canopies will lessen the force of raindrops when hitting the ground, which will also cut back on erosion.

A healthy tree can absorb approximately 13 pounds of carbon per year while an acre can absorb 2.6 tons of carbon per year. This is equivalent to the carbon emitted from a vehicle that is being driven 26,000 miles per year. The combined canopies will also provide shade and reduce temperatures along the travel corridor. In addition, creating more forest along these travel corridors will reduce noise levels and the amount of acres that State Highway Administration must mow each year.

Article by FCFCDB

Nature Notes for 2/15/2015