Thousands of citizens ask Monocacy River Board to advocate for river protection!

Smarter Growth Alliance

for Frederick County

1000 Friends of Maryland ● Audubon MD-DC ● Audubon Society of Central Maryland

Citizens for the Preservation of Middletown Valley ● Cleanwater Linganore ● Clean Water Action

Climate Change Working Group ● Coalition for Smarter Growth ● Envision Frederick County ● Frederick Zero Waste Alliance

Friends of Frederick County ● Maryland League of Conservation Voters ● Maryland Native Plant Society

Montgomery Countryside Alliance ● Potomac Conservancy ● Potomac Riverkeeper Network ● Preservation Maryland

Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE) ● Sierra Club Catoctin Group

July 12, 2017

Dr. George Grillon

Chair, Monocacy Scenic River Citizens’ Advisory Board

c/o Tim Goodfellow c/o Byron Madigan

Frederick County Government Carroll County Government

Division of Planning and Permitting Department of Land and Resource Management

30 North Market Street 225 North Center Street

Frederick, MD 21701 Westminster, MD 21157

Re: Draft Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan

Dear Dr. Grillon,

The Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County is a coalition of local and state organizations

representing approximately 16,000 members and supporters in Frederick County. We engage

residents and policy makers in support of wise land use that values our rural landscapes, protects

our natural resources, and enhances the unique character of our towns and cities to ensure a more

resilient and prosperous future.

On November 8, 2016, we sent a letter to the River Board expressing our support for the first

draft of the Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan, with a suggestion that the Monocacy

River Resource Protection Area (MRRPA) recommendation clearly include consideration for

adopting a regulatory setback line among all four jurisdictions represented in the Plan. We

received no response from the River Board.

We are writing to express our disappointment in the recent decisions made by the River

Board, relating to both the substance and process of the most recent draft Monocacy Scenic

River Management Plan, which no longer includes a MRRPA.

Development, certain agricultural practices, and other human-induced impacts within the

watershed continue to deteriorate the Monocacy’s beauty, ecological integrity, and biological

richness. The River and some of its tributaries are impaired by sediment, fecal bacteria, and

phosphorus. These pollutants degrade water quality, threaten surrounding ecosystems, and

reduce the viability of the River to continue meeting our drinking water needs.

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The Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan is intended to enhance and protect the river

corridor. While the first draft Plan, released in 2016, offered a variety of recommendations to

support the River’s natural and cultural resources and to foster sustainable land uses within the

watershed, the current draft omits common-sense recommendations and does far too little to

promote the health of the Monocacy River and the lands and waters feeding into it.

Primarily, we are alarmed that the MRRPA recommendation is no longer included in the

current draft. The science supporting riparian buffers as vital to improving the ecological

integrity of the River, including its water quality, wildlife habitat, and scenic beauty, is clear.

Riparian buffers are crucial to the River’s long-term prosperity. Without a clearly delineated

MRRPA on the River maps, accompanied by a stated recommendation for comprehensive

regulatory adoption, it is impossible for the River Board to achieve its stated objectives as

outlined by the Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan.

We are aware of landowner opposition to the MRRPA based on concerns related to private

property rights. Based on the highly contentious nature of the setbacks, as well as testimony and

scientific evidence presented by the public during the hearings, we acknowledge that a propertyspecific

setback should be considered. However, we firmly believe that the benefits of riparian

buffers and the vested interests of private property rights are not mutually exclusive, especially

when the various compensation options available to landowners for implementing the MRRPA

are considered. Many of our representative groups are available to work with individual

landowners to apply for and receive compensation to implement riparian buffer plantings and

other best management practices for the health of the River.

We suggest including in the Plan a new recommended MRRPA setback that adheres to the

Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) guidelines for Best Management Practices (BMPs)

related to forest as well as grass buffers. These BMPs are part of MDA’s Chesapeake Bay Water

Implementation Plan (WIP) objectives.1

The BMP Definition for Forest Buffers states as follows:

Agricultural riparian forest buffers are linear wooded areas along rivers, stream and

shorelines. Forest buffers help filter nutrients, sediments and other pollutants from runoff

as well as remove nutrients from groundwater. The recommended buffer width for

riparian forest buffers (agriculture) is 100 feet, with a 35 feet minimum width required.

NRCS Codes: 391, 650

The BMP Definition for Grass Buffers states as follows:

Agricultural riparian grass buffers are linear strips of grass or other non-woody

vegetation maintained between the edge of fields and streams, rivers or tidal waters that

help filter nutrients, sediment and other pollutant from runoff. The recommended buffer

width for riparian forests buffers (agriculture) is 100 feet, with a 35 feet minimum width

required. Vegetated open channels are modeled identically to grass buffers.

NRCS Codes: 386, 393, 390  These BMPs were established following USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

(NRCS) practice standards which are incorporated by code references in the definitions above.

NRCS codes contain technical information about the conservation of soil, water, air, and related

plant and animal resources.

For example: NRCS Code 391 referenced in the agriculture forest buffer definition includes the

following criteria to reduce excess amounts of sediment, organic material, nutrients, and

pesticides in surface water runoff, as well as reducing excess nutrients and other chemicals in

shallow ground water flow, and to create or improve riparian habitat and sequester carbon:

  1. The minimum width shall be at least 35 feet measured horizontally on a line perpendicular to the water body beginning at the normal water line, bank-full elevation,or the top of the bank as determined locally.
  2. The width will be extended in high nutrient, sediment, and animal waste application areas, where the contributing area is not adequately treated or where an additional level of protection is needed.
  3. The width will be extended to meet the minimum habitat requirements of the wildlife or aquatic species of concern.
  4. Establish plant communities that address the target aquatic and terrestrial wildlife and pollinator needs and have multiple values such as habitat, nutrient uptake and shading. The establishment of diverse native woody and herbaceous species will enhance wildlife and pollinator values.
  5. Select plants that have higher rates of carbon sequestration in soils and plant biomass and are adapted to the site to assure strong health and vigor.

Aerial maps of the River clearly demonstrate that these criteria are not being uniformly applied

along its banks, and are indeed absent in many places. A combined 35 foot grass and 100 foot

forest buffer in the MRRPA would be an optimal setback standard to provide critically needed

wildlife habitat and to meet the clean water goals outlined in the WIPs for each of the four

jurisdictions. This standard would need to be flexible according to topography, intensity of land

use, and the habitat needs of wildlife (especially for rare, threatened, or endangered species).

Since NRCS practice standards are only voluntary in nature, we feel that they should be

recommended as a regulatory setback requirement in the MRRPA as previously mentioned.

The WIPs establish ongoing reductions in the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for certain

water pollution inputs as mandated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System

(NPDES) permits required by the Federal Clean Water Act. The presence in the River of

pollutants including sediment, phosphorous, and fecal bacteria in excess of their TMDLs are well

documented in reports prepared by both MDE and DNR.2,3,4 These pollutants are responsible for

much of the poor water quality and biological impairment in the River.5,6 In addition, MDE has

identified a lack of adequate riparian buffers within agriculture areas as a major non-point source

for these pollutants. Implementation of forest and grass buffer BMPs across the Chesapeake Bay

watershed is crucial for achieving the TMDLs of these pollutants, thus providing clean drinking

water for tens of thousands of people.

We are also troubled that the recommendation to create a community-based Monocacy

Riverkeeper was removed from this new draft. While there are many local and state

organizations working to protect environmental resources in Frederick and Carroll counties,

there is currently no advocacy organization focused exclusively on the Monocacy River.

Riverkeepers have advanced clean water – swimmable, fishable, drinkable water – in

communities throughout Maryland and the world. It’s a successful model that, if implemented

for the Monocacy, would likely help the counties reach their pollution reduction goals. We

would consider it a good faith gesture from the River Board to re-introduce this fundamental

recommendation. While the creation of a Riverkeeper organization does not require support from

the River Board, a recommendation from your entity would help promote collaboration and

partnership opportunities when this new stewardship group is created.

We regret that a small, vocal group was able to derail the River Board process over the past year.

This group was not representative of the tens of thousands of community members who value the

Monocacy River and rely on it as a source of drinking water and recreation. The River Board

should have begun this entire process with a series of community meetings to hear from Carroll

and Frederick county residents. Many of our representative groups are skilled in community

outreach and engagement. We offer our services for future River Board outreach campaigns to

help ensure the voice of community members influence the process, rather than the outcomes.

The River Board’s Vision Statement is to promote “a healthy, sustainable River … balancing

preservation, conservation, and private property interests emphasizing cultural, historical,

natural, and ecological values, including agricultural lands, while providing recreational

opportunities.” Unfortunately, the River Board’s emphasis on private property interests is a

completely unbalanced approach to managing the Monocacy. This approach threatens the other

values described in that vision statement and endangers the very future of the Monocacy. Indeed,

the River Board succumbed to a variety of arguments made that were not supported by current

science and factual statements.

We urge the River Board to acknowledge the science of riparian buffers and consider the

negative impacts of dirty water to all Frederick and Carroll county residents, rather than

capitulating to the loudest voices at the expense of a healthy, scenic Monocacy River.

Sincerely,

Kimberly Brandt

Local Policy Director

1000 Friends of Maryland

Patrice Gallagher

Board President

Frederick Zero Waste Alliance

David Curson

Director of Bird Conservation

Audubon Maryland-DC

Morgan Lakey

President

Audubon Society of Central Maryland

Betsy Smith

President

Cleanwater Linganore

Jennifer Kunze

Maryland Program Organizer

Clean Water Action

Karen Russell

Founder

Climate Change Working Group

Stewart Schwartz

Executive Director

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Kai Hagen

Executive Director

Envision Frederick County

Janice Wiles

Board President

Friends of Frederick County

Land and Cultural Preservation Fund, Inc.

Karla Raettig

Executive Director

Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Kirsten Johnson

President

Maryland Native Plant Society, Inc.

Caroline Taylor

Executive Director

Montgomery Countryside Alliance

Caitlin Wall

Policy Director

Potomac Conservancy

Dean Naujoks

Potomac Riverkeeper

Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Steve McKay

President

Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE)

Daniel Andrews

Chairman

Sierra Club Catoctin Group

cc: Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner

Frederick County Council President Bud Otis

Frederick County Council Vice President M.C. Keegan-Ayer

Frederick County Council Member Tony Chmelik

Frederick County Council Member Kirby Delauter

Frederick County Council Member Jerry Donald

Frederick County Council Member Jessica Fitzwater

Frederick County Council Member Billy Shreve

Mr. Steven Horn, Frederick County Director of Planning

Carroll County Commissioner President C. Richard Weaver

Carroll County Commissioner Vice President Dennis E. Frazier

Carroll County Commissioner J. Douglas Howard

Carroll County Commissioner Richard S. Rothschild

Carroll County Commissioner Stephen A. Wantz

Mr. Philip R. Hager, Carroll County Director of Planning

Mr. Tom Devilbiss, Carroll County Director of Land & Resource Management

1 http://mda.maryland.gov/resource_conservation/Pages/wip.aspx?countyname=Frederick

2 Total Maximum Daily Load of Sediment in the Upper Monocacy River Watershed, Frederick and Carroll Counties,

Maryland (MDE, August 2009)

3 Total Maximum Daily Load of Phosphorus in the Lower Monocacy River Watershed, Frederick, Carroll, and

Montgomery Counties, Maryland (MDE, August 2012)

4 Total Maximum Daily Loads of Fecal Bacteria for the Upper Monocacy River Basin in Carroll and Frederick

Counties, Maryland (MDE, September 2009)

5 Watershed Report for Biological Impairment of the Upper & Lower Monocacy River Watersheds in Frederick and

Carroll Counties, Maryland – Biological Stressor Identification Analysis Results and Interpretation (MDE, July 2012)

6 Maryland’s Final 2014 Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality (MDE, April 2015)