How Threatened is Maryland’s Farmland–and What is the State Doing to Protect It?
A new study from American Farmland Trust – “Farms Under Threat: The State of the States” – provides groundbreaking new data that answer these questions. JOIN US for a webinar on Wednesday, June 17th at 1:00 PM to dig into the findings for Maryland. We’ll be looking at the spatial and policy scorecard findings and talking through tools available through this report to help planners, land trusts, farm and conservation organizations, policymakers, farmers, landowners and other advocates strengthen and expand farmland retention and protection efforts. The webinar is free and open to anyone with an interest in learning more.
Matt Seubert, Advisor to Friends of Frederick County, asks the Planning Commission to support the Monocacy River Management Plan (October 18, 2017)
Our objectives tonight are to convince you, and hopefully some of the landowners here, that this is a good plan and should be adopted. The program here is a communal path to mutual prosperity by restoring not just a tremendous ecological resource, but our environment at large that provides our very life support. Clean water, clean air, and plants and animals are all things we can’t live without. A healthy Monocacy improves the quality of life for everyone who drinks from the River, fishes from it, or just wants to be on it. Once people begin to realize this, we sincerely hope a constructive, rational two-way dialogue can begin. It’s really about ALL of us.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- The width will be extended to meet the minimum habitat requirements of the wildlife or aquatic species of concern.
- 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.
- 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.
Local Policy Director
1000 Friends of Maryland
Frederick Zero Waste Alliance
Director of Bird Conservation
Audubon Society of Central Maryland
Maryland Program Organizer
Clean Water Action
Climate Change Working Group
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Envision Frederick County
Friends of Frederick County
Land and Cultural Preservation Fund, Inc.
Maryland League of Conservation Voters
Maryland Native Plant Society, Inc.
Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Residents Against Landsdale Expansion (RALE)
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
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)