Erosion and Sediment Control in Maryland

Raindrop splashing into ground

The effects of erosion and sedimentation are well known. Typically, when disturbed earth is exposed to the impacts of rainfall, there is an increase in the volume and velocity of runoff.  This sets off a chain reaction that results in the transport and deposition of sediment, reduced stream capacity, and ultimately increased stream scour and flooding. Additionally, suspended sediment contributes to a decline in water quality by blocking sunlight, reducing photosynthesis, decreasing plant growth, destroying bottom dwelling species’ habitat, carrying attached pollutants such as phosphorous, and so on. The list of negative impacts is long. 


Sediment plume in local creekLegislation, established to protect Maryland waters from various pollutants, has existed since the early 1930s. In 1961, the Maryland’s Attorney General determined sediment to be a pollutant. This determination was based upon an interpretation of a 1957 State statute and authorized sediment control regulations to be developed. A statewide sediment control program was mandated in 1970 when the General Assembly passed the Sediment Control Law. From a historical perspective, Maryland’s incentive for having an erosion and sediment control program is the Chesapeake Bay. From a practical standpoint, federal involvement via the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) provides an incentive for State and local program development.  The Chesapeake Bay initiatives in 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 319 Nonpoint Source Program, and the NPDES municipal stormwater program have stimulated additional emphasis.

Picture of a Sediment TrapThe program developed in 1970 is essentially the same that exists today with an approved plan being required for any earth disturbance of 5,000 square feet or more and 100 cubic yards or more; plan approval exemptions for agricultural uses; plan review and approval by local Soil Conservation Districts (SCD); grading ordinance adoption by local jurisdictions; utility construction inspection by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC); and criminal penalties for sediment pollution.  Various programmatic improvements have included requiring sediment control plan approval prior to issuing grading and building permits (1973); requiring training and certification of "responsible personnel" (1980); shifting enforcement authority from local to State control and establishing delegation criteria (1984); requiring NPDES stormwater discharge permits for construction activity (1991); subjecting agricultural land management practices to enforcement action for sediment pollution (1992); and increasing stabilization requirements from 7-14 days to 3-7 days (2011).

Maryland’s Erosion Control Law and regulations specify the general provisions for program implementation; procedures for delegation of enforcement authority; requirements for erosion and sediment control ordinances; exemptions from plan approval requirements; requirements for training and certification programs; criteria for plan submittal, review, and approval; and procedures for inspection and enforcement. Proper design, installation, and maintenance of erosion and sediment control practices is essential to having an effective program.  MDE has established minimum criteria for effective erosion and sediment control practices.  The 2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control are incorporated by reference into State regulations and serve as the official guide for erosion and sediment control principles, methods, and practices. 

Stabilization during Construction Activities Guidance (January 2019) New banner

The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 26.17.01 was promulgated to protect valued natural resources during land development and construction activities. An essential tool in preventing sediment from polluting local streams and the Chesapeake Bay is the stabilization of disturbed earth. Soil erosion and sediment control requirements are enforced at both the local and State levels.   More guidance on stabilization of disturbed lands during construction may be found here:

Guidance on Major and Minor Modifications to Erosion and Sediment Control Plans (April 2018)

When inspection of a site indicates that practice deficiencies or ESC plan deficiencies exist, modifications to the approved plan may be requested by the owner/developer or required by the appropriate approval or enforcement authority. All plan modifications must be made in accordance with the ESC criteria contained in the "2011 Maryland Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control" and the criteria for major and minor modifications in COMAR H – Plan Modifications.   More guidance on major and minor modifications may be found here:

Major and Minor Modifications Guidance April 2018 

2017 Erosion and Sediment Control Regulation Changes  ​​  

The Maryland Department of the Environment finalized regulations on April 28, 2017 allowing more erosion and sediment control flexibility including: 

  • Providing flexibility on the 20-acre grading unit limitation
  • Extending approval periods for control plans from 2 years to 3 years
  • Removing the requirement that the appropriate enforcement authority shall inspect construction sites an average of once every 2 weeks for compliance with an approved erosion and sediment control plan 

Specific Information on the new regulations is available here: 2017 ESC Regulations Update.pdf2017 ESC Regulations Update.pdf.  This includes:  

  • Final changes to COMAR 26.17.01 Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Final changes to Maryland's Erosion and Sediment Control Handbook
  • Response to comments received by the Maryland Department of the Environment (Department) 

How the new regulations will be implemented: 

  • Counties and municipalities that are delegated enforcement authority for erosion and sediment control by the Department may update local ordinances to reflect these regulatory changes at any time and shall submit them to the Department for approval prior to local implementation
  • For all other areas of the State where the Department is the enforcement authority, the new regulations published on April 28, 2017 will become effective May 8, 2017, and Maryland's Soil Conservation Districts (Districts) can begin using them at that time in the approval of new erosion and sediment control plans
  • The Department will coordinate with the delegated jurisdictions and the Districts in transitioning to these new regulations  
The final regulations can be found in the Maryland Register For further information on these regulations, delegated jurisdictions should contact Mr. Raymond Bahr, Chief, Sediment and Stormwater Program Review Division, 410-537-3545 or For non delegated jurisdictions, please contact Harry Hunsicker, Program Manager, Compliance Program, 410-537-3626 or  ​


2015 Maryland Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards and Specifications for Forest Harvest Operations 

The Departments of Environment and Natural Resources are pleased to announce the issuance of the 2015 Maryland Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards and Specifications for Forest Harvest Operations (Manual).  A draft Manual was published in 2005 but never finalized.  The current updates to the Manual incorporate the extensive comments received in 2005 by forest-based businesses, private woodland owners, forest managers, environmental interests, and water quality experts.  Collaboration with the State Soil Conservation Committee and the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts, along with editing by a long-time forestry consultant working through the University of Maryland Extension, has resulted in a Manual that is both practical to implement and effective in maintaining the water quality of local streams.  The 2015 Manual will be the statewide standard for preventing and controlling sediment and erosion risks resulting from timber harvesting activities, and beginning on July 1, 2016 will supersede all previous guidance and standards.

Application of the Manual statewide will aid both the forestry industry and approval agencies by providing consistency to the planning and permitting process.  The majority of practices within the Manual remain unchanged from previous versions; however, some are now updated to reflect improved industry practices and advances in technology.  Details of specifications, including when and where they shall be applied, are now clarified.  A major goal of the current effort was to eliminate ambiguity and subjectivity while also providing for professional discretion and flexibility.

Forest harvest plans submitted for approval after July 1, 2016 must be consistent with the Manual.  However, plans submitted prior to July 1, 2016 may be developed using the Manual if the landowner or logger so chooses.  Please note that the approval process is different in each County and you should therefore consult with the local approving authorities prior to designing a timber harvest plan.

The local soil conservation district is the primary approval authority in all Counties, and their staff can advise you on any additional approvals needed for a particular harvest.  For example, stream crossings may require additional permits prior to harvesting, and the Maryland Department of Environment Wetlands and Waterways Program can assist landowners and timber harvesters with protecting Waters of the State.  Additionally, the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service offers preparation of Forest Stewardship Plans and provides advice to property owners regarding local permitting processes and requirements.

The Manual is available here:

2015 Maryland Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Standards and Specifications for Forest Harvest Operations

Individuals wishing to obtain Forest Harvest specific training and certification in Soil Erosion and Sediment Control for Forest Harvest Operations must contact Agnes Kedmenecz to access the online training program. Agnes Kedmenecz may be reached at​ or 410-827-8056, ext. 125.

For more information contact:

Daniel Rider -  Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service, Forest Stewardship & Utilization Program Manager at
410-260-8583 or

Pat Depkin - Maryland Department of the Environment, Water and Science Administration, Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program at 410-537-3628 or

University of Maryland Extension Recertification Classes  

COURSE TITLE: Sustainable Forestry I - The New 'Green Card' Recertification Course

COURSE INSTRUCTOR: University of Maryland Extension Master Logger Program

CONTACTAgnes Kedmenecz at​ or by phone at 410-827-8056 extension 125.

COURSE DESCRIPTION: All forest product operators are required to become certified or re-certified under newly-revised Maryland Sediment and Erosion Control BMP Guidelines by July 1, 2017 in order to carry out any forest harvest operation in Maryland's forests. This set of practices to protect water quality is the primary subject of the MD-DE Master Logger Program's Sustainable Forestry I training class. Current Master Loggers will receive four (4) CEUs and prospective Master Loggers will receive credit for this class as part of their Core training toward their Master Logger certification. Other forest product personnel, including firewood operators, are also required to carry 'Green Card' certification provided by attending this class and completing a short assessment test. Other forestry professionals, including licensed professional foresters, will also benefit from taking this course.

Short-term Objective:
Ensure Maryland State compliance with industry-specific guidelines for protecting water quality by forest harvest operators

Long-term Objective:
Restore and maintain aquatic habitat and water quality of the Chesapeake Bay and all other Maryland watersheds.

Responsible Personnel Certification Course

The Erosion and Sediment Control training course (formerly “green card”) is intended to provide the necessary training for individuals acting as the “Responsible Person” tasked with implementing and maintaining erosion and sediment controls as required by State law. It is also available to any person with an interest in learning about Maryland’s erosion and sediment control program and how it protects local water resources and Chesapeake Bay.

Maryland's Responsible Personnel Certification Course

There is no fee for the course and it should take 4-5 hours to complete, although does not need to be done in one sitting.  At the successful completion of the course, a certification number and card will be generated by the program.  You may print out the card and/or save the file electronically. 

If you have any questions or concerns about the course, please contact Pat Depkin at 410-537-3628 or


2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control

The 2011 Standards and Specifications are available here:

2011 Standards and Specifications for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control

Details from the 2011 Standards and Specifications are available online here:

Details from the 2011 Standards and Specifications


Contact Info

For additional information regarding the training program or other aspects of Maryland’s erosion and sediment control program please contact the Sediment, Stormwater, and Dam Safety Program at (410) 537-3543.


To Report Sediment Control Problems...
In the following counties and municipalities, please call:

Anne Arundel County   (410) 222-7171
     Annapolis (410) 263-7946
Baltimore City   (410) 396-0732
Baltimore County   (410) 887-3226
Calvert County   (410) 535-9235
Carroll County   (410) 386-2210
Charles County   (301) 645-0700
Dorchester County   (410) 228-2920
Frederick County   (301) 600-3507
Harford County   (410) 879-2000
     Bel Air   (410) 879-9507
     Aberdeen   (410) 272-1600
Howard County   (410) 313-1855
Kent County   (410) 778-7467
Montgomery County   (240) 777-0311
     Gaithersburg   (301) 258-6330
     Rockville   (240) 314-8870
Prince George's County   (301) 883-5600
     Bowie   (240) 508-5271
     Greenbelt   (301) 474-8004
     Laurel   (301) 725-5300
WSSC   (301) 206-8072
Worcester County   (410) 632-1200


For all other locations in Maryland call the Maryland Department of the Environment:

Week Days               (410) 537-3510
Nights/Weekends   1-866-633-4686