It is always good to try to get along with your neighbors, so we do not have a serious problem with Frederick County Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer sitting down with leaders from Carroll County to discuss the future of the divisive Monocacy Scenic River Management Plan.
We would, however, have a problem if the council president were to go too far in weakening the plan.
Keegan-Ayer said last week that she will meet with Stephen Wantz, president of the Carroll County commissioners, on June 26 to try to work out a compromise on a single version of the River Management Plan.
If you have come late to this dance, here is the background:
The update of the 1990 River Plan has been under discussion for at least three years. The Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board, which has members from both counties, first produced an updated plan in early 2017, but it quickly came under attack.
Landowners along the river began complaining that the plan was a “land grab” because they would be required to take positive actions to protect the river. Opposition was especially harsh among Carroll’s leadership.
Several Carroll members of the advisory board were replaced, and the new advisory board extensively revised and weakened the proposed plan before recommending it to the two counties last fall.
To the new advisory board, the interests of the landowners were paramount. We believe the 2018 version gave short shrift to environmental concerns.
Environmental groups in Frederick and around the state attacked the 2018 plan as too weak. It essentially would have offered suggestions to landowners for measures to safeguard the water quality of the river but would not have included many requirements.
We do not see the provisions requiring landowners to take active steps to protect the river as a land grab, any more than requiring a homeowner to allow construction of a sidewalk in front of their home. It is needed for the common good, just as protecting the Monocacy is.
At any rate, Carroll’s commission swiftly approved the 2018 document. However, after new Frederick council members were elected in November, the old council deferred action until the new council took office.
Earlier this year, the Frederick County Council voted to scrap the 2018 plan and instead approved an amended version of the plan that had been recommended by the old citizen board in 2017.
So now we have two plans for protecting the river, one adopted by Frederick and one by Carroll. It is less than ideal, but as we have frequently pointed out, the attitudes and political views of the two counties have diverged significantly since the original plan was adopted in 1990. It may not be possible to reconcile those differences.
The county attorney and the Maryland attorney general have advised the counties that it would be acceptable for each county to have its own plan. But Wantz and Keegan-Ayer said they still believe it would be better for both counties to have one plan.
If they would like to make another try, we will not object. But we will not be uncritical of a compromise that weakens the provisions needed to protect this vital river.
The river plan must clearly spell out the practices that landowners in the watershed must follow to protect the river. Otherwise, there is no point in having a river plan.