At the end of a long, long journey, Frederick County seems to have arrived at a good place from which to protect our treasured Monocacy River.
After considerable pushing and pulling, the Monocacy Scenic River Citizens Advisory Board was dissolved last year when the Carroll County commissioners decided to pull out of the compact.
The advisory board was created five decades ago with Carroll, which shares the river as a border with Frederick at the north end of the county.
By the time of the divorce last year, it was clear to everyone that the two counties had irreconcilable differences and a split would be best for both sides.
Once, the two counties had shared similar outlooks on the environment and the growth policies, but increasingly they had diverged. When the advisory board began working three years ago to update the guidelines for protecting the river, deep philosophical differences emerged.
The conflict basically boiled down to a choice between believing that the interests of the property owners near the streams were paramount or recognizing that the quality of the water in the river was most important. Carroll representatives thought the first true; Frederick representatives the second.
Last week, the Frederick County Council voted to create a new version of the river advisory board composed exclusively of Frederick County residents, the Sustainable Monocacy Commission.
The new commission will be charged with overseeing the health of the Monocacy River and its tributaries, and with recommending policies to protect them. It must follow the guidelines of the Monocacy River Plan, which was approved by the council last April.
Council President M.C. Keegan-Ayer introduced the legislation on behalf of County Executive Jan Gardner. We are pleased with the proposed makeup of the commission, and believe it will give a voice to property owners, farmers, environmentalists and the general public.
The nine voting members of the board will include:
- Two property owners who live along the Monocacy River.
- Three residents who don’t live along the river.
- Three members of the local scientific community (biology, ecology, life science, natural resources or related fields).
- One member of the local agricultural community.
- One member of the general public.
All must be registered voters and residents of Frederick County. The commission will also include two non-voting members, one representing the city of Frederick and one representing the County Council.
In an effort to continue trying to coordinate efforts with Carroll County, the commission will meet at least once a year with whatever board Carroll officials create.
Judging by the final years of the advisory board, we do not hold out much hope that the commission will often find itself in agreement with the Carroll representatives, but it will be useful to maintain a dialogue and lines of communication with our neighbor to the east.
We believe that the county has ended up in a place where our river will have the best chance of being properly protected. At the same time, property owners will not be unduly interfered with. Environmental protection is always a balancing act, and this commission gives us the best hope of a good balance.