Right now, the Frederick County Council is considering Bill 19-17 (PDF) to create an independent Sustainable Monocacy Commission to "recommend policies that improve water quality, maintain and restore the ecological health and productivity of the Monocacy River and its tributaries, and conserve and protect wildlife habitat, the natural, cultural, and scenic character of the Monocacy River and its tributaries flowing in and through Frederick County." This is a great step forward to protecting the largest watershed in Frederick County - but the bill needs some tweaks.
The Monocacy River and two of its tributaries, Linganore Creek and Fishing Creek, provide about 85% of the City of Frederick's drinking water. (The remaining 15% comes from the Potomac River.) Improving the safety and security of these drinking water sources should be added as a key part of the Sustainable Monocacy Commission's mission.
As currently drafted, the Sustainable Monocacy Commission would have nine voting members: 2 owners of land adjacent to the river, 2 owners of land not adjacent to the river, 1 representative of the agricultural community, and 2 individuals with scientific backgrounds "in the fields of biology, ecology, chemistry, earth sciences, environmental education, natural resources, or related fields." We believe two things about this should be amended. First, any resident of Frederick County should be able to serve on the Monocacy River in the second category, not only individuals who own land - particularly since 42% of households in Frederick City, who drink the water from the Monocacy River, rent. Second, individuals with scientific background should have greater representation on the Commission, so that its recommendations can be firmly based in a wide range of scientific expertise.
UPDATE: At a public hearing on December 3, every single speaker testified about the importance of creating a Sustainable Monocacy Commission and making sure that it's amended to make sure that its recommendations are based in science and public health. (Read more in the Frederick News-Post here.) Frederick County's Chief Administrative Officer Rick Harcum spoke in response and acknowledged that language requiring individuals to own land not contiguous to the Monocacy was inappropriate and should be changed, but was opposed to changing the composition of the Commission or increasing the number of members to add more scientifically-qualified members.
UPDATE 2: At a County Council meeting on January 7, the County Council approved two amendments to Bill 19-17: one adding a preamble describing the Commission's purpose, and one changing the composition of the Commission to:
This is a great step toward a better Monocacy Commission! Read more in the Frederick News-Post here.
The County Council will hold a public hearing on the Sustainable Monocacy Commission on Tuesday 1/14 at 7PM at Winchester Hall. Attend to speak in person, or click below to contact the Council!