TANEYTOWN - The Monocacy River, meandering between Carroll and Frederick counties, needs people to continue the fight to keep its water clear as it flows toward the Chesapeake Bay, a Frederick County biologist said.
James H. Gilford, a former Environmental Protection Agency official who has been working for almost 20 years to keep the river clean, said a permanent group should be formed to watch out for the Monocacy.
"A board should be appointed to serve as an advocate for the river," he said Wednesday.
A temporary group called the Monocacy Scenic River Local Advisory Board has developed a plan during the past two years that identifies problems on the river and offers solutions.
Some board members met at City Hall here Wednesday to hear public input on the final draft. Several citizens attended, but none had specific comments or questions about the plan.
Commissioners in Carroll and Frederick counties already have signed resolutions supporting the document, which will be presented to the next General Assembly.
The plan has no regulatory powers, but needs legislative approval, said Mark Spencer of the Scenic and Wild Rivers Program in the state Department of Natural Resources.
Board members hope the plan will make the public more aware of what needs to be done to preserve water quality, Gilford said.
Key players in the effort are farmers in the Monocacy's watershed, which encompasses about 1,000 square miles, 20 percent of which is in Carroll, Spencer said.
Most of the land in the watershed is used for farming, the report says.
In Carroll, the watershed is in the northwest part of the county near the Piney and Alloway creeks and in the southwest near Linganore Creek.
Agriculture contributes significant pollution in the forms of sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus and coliform bacteria, the report says.
Many Carroll farmers in the area long have participated in conservation practices to help reduce runoff from animal waste and chemicals, and a national project started this summer has encouraged others to join the effort.
"The Monocacy River Watershed Water Quality Demonstration Project" is a combined effort by county, state and federal agencies to provide money to farmers to implement conservation measures.
Thomas Miller, a former cooperative extension agent in Carroll who now is field coordinator for the project, said farmers not familiar with the project will be invited to information sessions in early December to learn more about it.
Gilford said the plan discussed Wednesday is "a good blueprint" for citizens to follow if they want to help protect the Monocacy. If followed, the plan could provide "adequate, long-term protection" for the river, he said.
The Monocacy is the largest Maryland tributary of the Potomac River, which flows into the bay. In 1974, the state designated the Monocacy as a scenic river.
Some of the goals of the plan are to:
* Improve water quality.
* Provide a resource of information about the watershed.
* Develop cooperation between various government agencies with jurisdiction for managing the river area.
* Identify and help bring about appropriate uses for scenic, historic, archaeological and other resources of the river.
Spencer said water quality in the Monocacy now is rated "fair to good" and that the river is home to a diverse population of birds and fish.
Educating the public about the river and its problems would be one of the most important aspects of a permanent advisory board's work, he said. This could be done through field trips to the river, farms and other areas in the watershed, he said.
A permanent board would have members from both Carroll and Frederick counties and would advise government agencies about any impact developments considered for the watershed would have on the river, Gilford said.
Frederick County resident Minny Pohlmann, who lives along a tributary to the Monocacy, suggested Wednesday that advocates for the river take their message to the schools and explain to students how their actions affect the bay.
"It's the children who have to carry on," she said. "And it's the children who can do a better job of educating their parents."