The Frederick and Carroll county governments will adopt a new “resource protection area” if they accept the updated Monocacy River Management Plan. Each county will need to pass additional legislation guiding development and restoration inside the area with that designation.
The plan is not a mandate or ordinance, but would define an overlay — or special designation laid on an existing area — that extends 300 to 500 feet from the river, said Bill Hensley, a member of the Monocacy Scenic River Citizen Advisory Board for eight years and a retired federal employee.
More than 77 percent of the overlay falls within the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 100-year flood plain, which is already tightly regulated by the counties. A 100-year flood refers to a flood that has a 1 percent chance of happening in any particular year.
The Monocacy River is one of nine of Maryland’s designated scenic rivers, and a majority of it runs through Frederick County.
“The river is uniquely Frederick,” Hensley said. “It’s a defining element.”
The overlay includes wetlands, slopes and forest cover that naturally protect the river.
The plan proposes that the overlay could function as a “setback line,” which would buffer the river from land development and protect water quality, wildlife habitat and scenic qualities, according to the plan. Frederick County, Carroll County, Walkersville and the city of Frederick would need to take further legislative action to establish the setback line.
The river board “understands and acknowledges there are environmental resources that need some protection beyond the 100-year flood plain,” said Tim Goodfellow, a county principal planner.
The new management plan, last updated in 1990, refines approximately 100 recommendations the board made to Frederick and Carroll counties a quarter century ago for the river that acts as the counties’ northern borders.
The plan offers 78 recommendations to county governments and residents to protect fisheries and promote river recreation, education and restoration.
The plan opened for public comment Oct. 12 and will close Wednesday. The river board will host two open-house-style information sessions on Monday at the Taneytown Fire Department and Wednesday in Winchester Hall.
The board will consider each comment, and may amend the plan prior to submitting it to the county governments, Hensley said. For this reason, the board does not have an exact date for submitting the plan to the county governments.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the river board developed the management plan over the last year and a half. The board is made up of five volunteers from Frederick County and five from Carroll County.
The team brought in experts to advise them on policy changes, including the introduction of the Chesapeake Bay’s total maximum daily load, which is a nutrient and sediment diet that Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia must meet. The Monocacy is the largest tributary to the Potomac River, which feeds the Chesapeake Bay.
“If you love crabs as much as I do, you have to keep the bay clean,” Hensley said.
There were also considerations for the area’s agricultural preservation sites, which have added to the river’s scenic quality. The river board supports the continued, active agriculture use within the resource protection area, according to the plan.
The plan could be used in the future as justification for grant proposals to show state, federal and nonprofits that there is an established plan in place for the river, Goodfellow said.
Hensley is most excited about the education recommendations that are included in this plan, he said. He would like to see the school systems incorporate the Monocacy River into its curriculum.
“To me, that’s really important that they get at that ground level — the kids,” Hensley said.
The plan also calls for the creation of a Monocacy River Keepers group, which would work on river advocacy and restoration through community-based stewardship. Several other rivers have similar citizen groups.
It is important to the river board that people recognize how valuable the Monocacy is to the community. The plan tries to make sure development happens mindfully to maintain and improve the river, not impede development, Hensley said.
“Assets need to be managed and nurtured and protected in the long run,” Goodfellow said.