Environmental Officials Call For Monocacy Board

September 01, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

Now that the General Assembly has approved a plan to protect the Monocacy River, two state environmental officials and a Frederick Countybiologist are calling on Carroll activists to make it work.

The trio urged the county commissioners Thursday to establish a permanent Monocacy River Citizens Advisory Board, in conjunction with FrederickCounty, to monitor land-use decisions, government policies and farming practices that could affect river quality. The Monocacy watershed comprises about 1,000 square miles, 20 percent of which is in Carroll.

"Citizen involvement is a key aspect," said Mark Spencer, a regional planner with the state Department of Natural Resources. "Funding from the state and counties is limited. We want volunteerism along the river."

The Monocacy, which forms the Carroll-Frederick border west of Taneytown, flows to the Potomac River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay. It has about 20 tributaries in the two counties.

The river gained special designation under Maryland's Scenic and Wild Rivers Program in 1974 because of its important environmental, ecological, cultural and recreational role in the region.

A temporary citizens advisory board was created to develop a study and management plan for the river, with technical assistance from the state. The report, which will be a guideline and reference document for conserving the river, was approved by DNR and the Frederick and Carroll commissioners in 1990 and by the legislature this year.

Spencer said citizen involvement is necessary to promote existing programs, such as farming conservation practices, and educate the public about how to preserve the resource. Board members also could help monitor discharges atnearby sewage treatment plants, which have contributed pollutants tothe river.

Ideally, the board would recommend policies that encourage compatible land uses, enhance water quality and direct attentionto environmentally sensitive areas. It also would review government policies and regulations to evaluate the impact on the river's watershed.

The advisory body would not have regulatory powers.

"The board will see that all facts come to light for decision-makers," saidJames Gilford, a biologist and former Environmental Protection Agency worker who has been a Monocacy River activist for 20 years. "Otherwise, some concerns won't get the light they should in the decision-making process."

Gilford said the impacts of farming on the river, such as chemical and animal waste runoff, are a concern, but that monitoring land development and industrial activities are a higher priority. Farming is the predominant land use in the watershed.

Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said the commissioners may set up a meeting soon with Frederick officials to discuss formation of the advisory board.

"I see nothing but good that can come from it," he said. "My concern would be money. But I was assured it wouldn't cost anything to be involved. It's an environmentally sound thing to do."

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