Lake Linganore residents band together on water quality

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/19/2013
When Lake Linganore resident Betsy Smith looks out the window after a storm, she watches the land around her acting as a “huge water filter.” Plants and soil slow the flow of rainwater and help remove sediment and pollutants before the runoff reaches Lake Linganore and surrounding tributaries, she said. The filtration step is important not only for preserving water quality, but also because sediment can build up and reduce the lake’s capacity. But Smith and her neighbors are concerned that planned development in the area will replace these vegetated areas with paved surfaces, she said. “We just didn’t see how it could work to do all of the development right there in that really big water drainage area,” she said. Smith has expressed her opinion at public meetings, she said, but she doesn’t feel her voice has been heard by county leaders. So Smith and some of her neighbors decided to band together. In late October, they filed the articles of incorporation for a new group called Cleanwater Linganore Inc. Smith is president of the nonprofit’s five-member board, all of whom live in the Lake Linganore area.

State warns 1 cent storm water fee is "insufficient"

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/03/2013
Frederick County's 1 cent storm water fee could end up costing tens of thousands of dollars in fines, state environmental officials recently warned. A Maryland Department of the Environment review determined the county's fee would be "insufficient" to pay for the water cleanup efforts required by a state-enforced permit. The fee of 1 cent per eligible property is estimated to raise $487 annually for county water programs. "We believe that this level of funding will be insufficient to support the people, programs and projects that will be necessary for the county to meet its obligations under the Watershed Implementation Plan and the new MS4 permit that we expect to issue to your county next month," stated an Oct. 25 letter written by Robert Summers, the state's environmental secretary. The county could get slapped with fines of up to $32,500 per day for each violation of its storm water permit, which is in the process of being renewed, the letter continued.

County decides to relax stream buffer requirements

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
11/01/2013
The legally required swath of trees and shrubbery separating Frederick County's homes from its streams is becoming 25 feet slimmer. Commissioners voted Thursday to relax the county's stream buffer ordinance, a "modest change" that they said would have little effect on the county's waterways. Allowing homes closer to county streams opens up a bit more land to developers, giving them more flexibility in site design as they deal with state environmental requirements, county staff said. "Really, we see this as a jibing of county standards to harmonize with the state standards," said Dusty Rood, president of the Frederick County Land Use Council. However, local residents, environmental groups and former County Commissioner Kai Hagen all said they believed decreasing the required stream buffer size would endanger area water quality. Hagen said county's current leaders have shown a pattern of elevating developer interests above other considerations. "They said, 'Jump,' and you jumped," Hagen told the board of commissioners.

Potomac Conservancy Urges Citizens To Speak Out Against Stream Buffer Changes

WFMD
Kevin McManus
10/15/2013
A regional organization is urging Frederick County citizens to speak out against proposed changes to stream buffer regulations. In an e-mail sent out last week, the Potomac Conservancy said residents need to tell the Commissioners to vote against changes to the Waterbody Buffer Amendment."It's {the current regulations} a proven, cost-effective methodology that will help reduce flooding on rainy days, and also keep pollutants out of much of the drinking water supply," says Hedrick Belin, President of the Potomac River Conservancy. The revisions would reduce the minimum setbacks for buildings being constructed near bodies of water, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules for the Lake Linganore area.

County considers reducing stream buffer requirement

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
10/8/2013
Houses might be allowed a little closer to Frederick County streams if officials decide to relax certain water body buffer requirements. On Wednesday, members of the Frederick County Planning Commission will review drafted amendments to the local rules for buffers. The proposed changes would reduce minimum building setbacks, cut down the required study area around bodies of water and remove special rules that apply in the Lake Linganore area. The county is tackling the stream buffer ordinance as it works through a list of suggestions for making the region more friendly to businesses. Dusty Rood, president of the Land Use Council, said the proposed changes are minor and would make the stream buffer rules more compatible with state environmental standards. However, others think the drafted changes would weaken county laws and lead to stream pollution. The current water body buffer ordinance was passed in 2008, under the board led by Commissioners President Jan Gardner, said Tim Goodfellow, principal planner for the county. Before the ordinance was enacted, the minimum setback was only 50 feet, Goodfellow said. Determining proper setbacks now involves looking at the 175-foot slice of land on either side of a stream or surrounding a body of water. The proposed changes would reduce the study area to 150 feet on each side of a stream, Goodfellow said. The studies examine the slope of the land surrounding the water bodies; for areas with predominantly steep slopes, buildings must sit at least 175 feet away from the water. The minimum buffer is 150 feet where slopes are mostly moderate, and for gentle inclines or flat areas, the setback is 100 feet, Goodfellow said.

Clean Chesapeake Coalition faces challenges changing minds

Carroll County Times
Timothy Sandoval
09/22/2013
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which Carroll County joined last year, includes six other rural counties in Maryland, and attempts to change conventional wisdom on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts. The coalition advocates for cost-effective policies that will help the bay, pointing out the issues concerning the Conowingo Dam, which they say releases the largest amount of pollution into the bay. They argue the dam should be the priority, downplaying the effectiveness of environmental polices handed down by the state. But some have questioned the effectiveness of such a coalition, including one commissioner in Carroll County. Commissioner Haven Shoemaker, R-District 2, who voted against joining the coalition, said at the time of the vote that he was unsure the state would stop its focus on septic system regulations and other mandates it is looking to impose.

Scientists defend storm-water controls

Baltimore Sun
Tim Wheeler
09/20/2013
Scientists and others engaged in protecting Maryland's rivers and streams are rising to the defense of the state's storm-water management laws in the wake of Harford County Executive David Craig's call for their repeal. Craig, a leading Republican candidate for governor in next year's election, said earlier this week that he would push for repeal of at least three state environmental laws, including one requiring property owners in Baltimore City and the state's nine largest counties to pay a fee for reducing storm-water runoff in their communities. The fee, which Craig and other critics have dubbed a "rain tax," is generally assessed based on the amount of pavement and rooftop that property owners have. Craig contends the fees are inconsistently applied and so steep in places like Baltimore that they'll drive businesses out. But in calling for the fee's repeal, Craig took aim at the scientific basis for focusing on such "impervious surface." "The impervious surface really doesn't matter," Craig said. "The rain is going to get through somewhere, somehow." Craig also called for repeal of a 2007 law tightening requirements for new development to limit storm-water runoff, and of a 1984 law limiting development near the shore of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Scientists take issue with Craig over his statement questioning the science behind the storm-water fees. "Mr. Craig's comment flies in the face of all available science on the issue, and more importantly, in the face of common sense," said Andrew J. Elmore, an associate professor at the University of Maryland's Appalachian Environmental Laboratory in Frostburg. Hye Yeong Kwon, executive director of the Center for Watershed Protection in Ellicott City, said the connection between impervious surface and stream vitality has been established for years now. Rainfall runs off pavement and roofs when in an undeveloped setting it would soak into the ground, explained Kwon. Her nonprofit center works with local governments and others to curb the effects of storm water.

Shades of Green

Saving the Planet Touches Almost Every Area of Frederick County Living, and it Comes with a Price Tag
Frederick Magazine
Linda Norris-Waldt
09/16/2013
Save the Bay. Buy recycled. Reduce your carbon footprint. Conserve water. The list goes on and on. And so does the number of programs and projects that aim to improve Frederick County’s environment— and with them, the debate about where lies the responsibility: Who pays, who is inconvenienced by change, and how much habit-breaking is practical when the returns aren’t immediately evident. A myriad of regulations, public education programs and businesses have brought environmental initiatives to our doors. The new programs, like mandating rain barrels and rain gardens for new subdivisions, roll in with great fanfare like ocean waves, supported by public demand. And then they are either delayed or abridged because of cost, impact or feasibility. A constant rebalancing is always taking place. Kirby Delauter, a Frederick County commissioner whose work in construction takes him into the field where he has direct encounters with environmental regulations, has been no fan of the feasibility of government programs regulating the environment. They have “grown exponentially and for no good reason other than to expand the role of government in our lives,” he says. “Stormwater has been ruled by courts to not be a pollutant, yet we still seem to have governing bodies that can’t let go of the power and control of regulating the lives of personal property owners.” Kai Hagen, a community activist and former county commissioner known for championing environmental causes, has a differing view. “If people knew the real environmental and economic costs and benefits associated with the choices we make—as a community—I’m convinced we would be making a lot more responsible choices than we are now,” he says. Here’s how current environmental programs in Frederick County touch water, land and lives.

New partners in county stream improvement

Frederick News Post
08/27/2013
John Smucker recently partnered with the Potomac Conservancy as part of a project to remove a fish barrier, an outmoded dam and control bank erosion in Tuscarora Creek. He planted 55 native hardwood trees along with cocoa matts. Brook Hill United Methodist Church helped complete the field and leg work. Ray Locke, coordinator of the Friends of Frederick County Clean Streams Initiative, is seeking to use similar techniques to improve the health of other streams in Frederick County. Frederick County has 20 different watersheds of which 11 are in poor condition. He is looking for groups to Adopt-A-Grid and install erosion stabilizers to improve water quality. Friends of Frederick County is organizing a Clean Streams Initiative, whereby individuals or groups can Adopt-A-Grid and monitor where a stream crosses a road. This will take two hours and be done twice a year, in October and March. A phone or Internet app will help report apparent pollution sources. For details, or to Adopt-a-Grid, visit the display in the lobby of the C. Burr Artz Public Library, 110 E. Patrick St., Frederick, visit www.friendsoffrederickcounty.org or email ray_locke@hotmail.com.

Raining on the 'rain tax'

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Raining on the ‘rain tax’

08/01/2013
According to a new report from the Maryland Public Policy Institute, Maryland’s so-called “rain tax” is poorly conceived, has been ineptly handled by some jurisdictions, and may not live up to its billing as an important weapon in the fight to clean up and save the Chesapeake Bay. MPPI’s John W. Walters, who wrote the report, concludes, “Despite its apparent environmental pedigree, the rain tax is basically just an additional property tax.” The report discusses many aspects of the rain tax, including how various jurisdictions have decided to implement the program. Thomas A. Firey, also of MPPI, edited Walters’ report and was quoted in a recent story in The Daily Record. His assessment of how it’s all going so far: “It’s really important to understand, at least in theory, why this could be good, but why a lot of this is getting screwed up.”

Rain in the garden

Frederick News Post
07/09/2013
Because we frequently editorialize on politics and government, it’s a nice change for us — and our readers, we hope — when we can focus on something that’s truly positive and uplifting. In this case, it’s the rain garden adjacent to St. James Episcopal Church in Mount Airy. Nancy Hernandez’s story about this little gem of a project was in Sunday’s News-Post, on page E-8. We hope you read it, as we did, with interest. If not, we recommend digging out your Sunday edition and doing so. We like this story because it’s about people working together to solve a problem. It also involves improving the environmental, and may even be of help to Frederick County residents as they seek solutions to stormwater runoff and ways to address the (drumroll) “rain tax.

Smith’s simplistic commentary

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
07/08/2013
Recent commentary by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith exposes the simplistic political logic of the current Board of County Commissioners and of the statewide Chesapeake Coalition. At its base, it rejects firm science and portrays the problem as an out-of-state boogeyman to deflect attention from our real-life issues and responsibility for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The citizens of Frederick County, and of Maryland, deserve better from our local elected leaders. As one dedicated over many years towards the careful practice of environmental stewardship and water quality while respecting history and economics and sustainability, I demand better deliberation, thought and action in these responsibilities from us all.

Smith's simplistic commentary

Frederick News Post
Jack Lynch
07/08/2013
Recent commentary by Frederick County Commissioner Paul Smith exposes the simplistic political logic of the current Board of County Commissioners and of the statewide Chesapeake Coalition. At its base, it rejects firm science and portrays the problem as an out-of-state boogeyman to deflect attention from our real-life issues and responsibility for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. The citizens of Frederick County, and of Maryland, deserve better from our local elected leaders. As one dedicated over many years towards the careful practice of environmental stewardship and water quality while respecting history and economics and sustainability, I demand better deliberation, thought and action in these responsibilities from us all.

Grand Canyon makes erosion look good, Shreve says

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/21/2013
Consider erosion, says Commissioner Billy Shreve. Is it a thing to be feared? Battled? Buffered against? Or enjoyed? During Thursday’s board meeting, Frederick County leaders discussed Chesapeake Bay health and a recent county study of local streams. Though the report found erosion was an issue in many county waterways, Shreve said he’s not sure how problematic the process is. “We have this report in Frederick County. It talks about the restoration of streams, and how we can’t allow streambeds to erode, and all that stuff. Yet, we celebrate one of the greatest erosions in the history of mankind, and it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world: the Grand Canyon,” he said. “It’s the biggest, worst case of erosion ever. So ... I don’t know which way to go on that.” Commissioner Paul Smith followed Shreve’s logic to provide a vision of the Eastern Shore millions of years in the future. “The bay has a future as a grand canyon?” Smith said, laughing

Stream study yields important information

Frederick News Post
06/20/2013
rederick County recently released the findings of an important study on the health and vitality of its many streams. The survey provides detailed information on the water quality, physical condition and biological activity in the county’s smaller waterways. Two hundred specific sites were sampled for the study. While the news is somewhat mixed, there is plenty of cause for concern. More than half of the county’s stream miles had banks that were either moderately or severely eroded. Nearly 20 percent had badly degraded habitats where aquatic creatures should be found in abundance; 11 of 20 watershed areas in the study received a poor rating for insect life, an important indicator of stream health. As could have been predicted, streams in agricultural areas or in proximity to development fared worse than those more removed from human activity. It’s no secret that runoff from farming and development contribute to stream pollution, sediment buildup and bank erosion.

Water study finds many county streams in poor health

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/18/2013
The majority of Frederick County’s watershed areas are suffering from, poor biological health and moderate to severe bank erosion, according, to a sweeping water quality report released Monday. Human activities such as farming and development are largely, responsible for the wide-ranging symptoms of damaged waterways, detailed in the four-year assessment, said Shannon Moore, who manages, the county’s office of sustainability and environmental resources. The, study commissioned by the county is the first of its kind and takes, stock of bug populations, the amount of food and shelter available for, stream life, erosion, and water pollutants. Moore said the county aims to develop these evaluations every four, years and will use the first report as a baseline against which to, compare future data.

County allocates $25,000 to challenge cleanup plan

Frederick News Post
Bethany Rodgers
06/14/2013
Frederick County will contribute another $25,000 to a partnership that is challenging a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The money comes from the county's fiscal 2013 budget and will help pay for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition's legal counsel and public outreach about the expenses of following a state-prescribed pollution diet.

Pulte housing plan for 1,000 units in Boyds under fire

Coalition recommends shifting density to unbuilt Clarksburg Town Center
Gazette
Virginia Terhune
06/12/2013
[Montgomery] County environmentalists are recommending that a plan by the Pulte Group to build 1,000 homes on three ridges in the Ten Mile Creek watershed in Boyds be scaled back or eliminated by placing most of the 538-acre rural site into the county’s Agriculture Reserve. “The only way to preserve fragile water systems is to cap development in their watersheds, clear and simple,” according to a 26-page report released June 6 by the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition.

County needs ‘rain tax’ Plan B

Frederick News Post
06/07/2013
In any case, this is not the end of the debate. Lawmakers failed at the end of this year’s session to modify the tax and said it’ll be back in 2014. But don’t expect it to be friendlier to taxpayers on the whole — delegates and senators don’t seem as worried about individual constituents as they do about large businesses and nonprofits (e.g., churches). While the state has largely left it up to each jurisdiction to craft the fee structure as they see fit, there’s nothing to prevent state lawmakers from imposing this tax on the county, especially if egged on by the environmental lobby, which has the state’s Democratic majority by the, ahem, ear.The commissioners have set us up for a David vs. Goliath showdown, only it’s less likely we’ll get off that one, lucky shot. Trusting the Maryland General Assembly for a solution is a bad gamble.