(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Representatives from all nine Eastern Shore counties in Maryland, as well as from Berlin, Cambridge, Chestertown, Easton, Oxford, and Salisbury, have agreed to an action plan to expedite restoration of Shore creeks and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. The group of more than 30 local government representatives, known as the Healthy Waters Round Table, recommended five preliminary steps to pursue in 2016.
With help from five supporting non-profit, academic and research organizations, the group narrowed down a list of 120 ideas into a handful of initial actions that could be accomplished with existing resources. They also identified longer-range actions that could be achieved with added resources.
"Many local leaders on Maryland's Eastern Shore care deeply about the value that clean water brings to local economies and the region's quality of life," said Dirck Bartlett, a round table participant who serves on the Talbot County Council. "But we have a long way to go to meet goals for cleaner water on the Shore. This plan allows for the counties and municipalities here to work together on the most practical, cost-effective clean-up strategies."
The five preliminary steps recommended for 2016 are: provide grant writing training; create and distribute model documents for soliciting grants and consulting services; secure staff training for the Maryland Assessment Scenario Tool (MAST), a web-based nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment load estimator tool to streamline environmental planning; provide staff training in social marketing and public education; and obtain clarity and guidance on state stormwater management expectations and priorities for Eastern Shore communities.
Longer-term priorities of the group include:
- Identify and prioritize means to fill gaps in funding water quality control projects;
- Streamline the process for tracking and reporting of Best Management Practices;
- Develop policies and procedures for expanding sewer service to appropriate areas currently utilizing septic systems;
- Create a circuit rider system to assist jurisdictions with specific contractor help;
- Establish a sharable clearinghouse of methods, approaches and resources for reducing pollution; and
- Improve the maintenance of existing devices and practices used to control polluted runoff.
To complete the priority actions, six work groups comprised of interested jurisdictions' representatives are being formed with each one tasked with developing a detailed work plan to implement each priority. All Eastern Shore local government representatives are invited to attend the upcoming work group meetings.
Government representatives met four times as a round table from August to December 2015 to prioritize steps for action, based on several guiding questions, such as, "What cost effective solutions exist and which are the highest priority?"
The Eastern Shore leaders who participated in the program said they value the opportunity to work cooperatively on the best methods for achieving clean water.
"With the Healthy Waters Round Table, we're working across county and town lines to share knowledge and experience, maximize limited resources, and procure new funding and assistance," said Queen Anne's County Board of Commissioners president Jim Moran.
Maryland and five other states in the Chesapeake Bay region, along with the District of Columbia, have until 2025 to establish practices that reduce pollution to specific levels under a regional plan to restore the Bay called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The plan also requires each state to submit progress reports every two years. If achieved, the pollution reductions will significantly boost the populations of fish, oysters, and crabs in the Bay, heal damaged aquatic habitats, and boost economic development, experts say.
In Maryland, counties and municipalities also are being asked to contribute their own efforts to meet the mandated state pollution reduction goals. Eastern Shore counties have made some progress, but many are seeking new ways to accelerate their efforts.
Eastern Shore local officials involved in the Healthy Waters Round Table included:
Upper Eastern Shore
- Cecil County Alan McCarthy, Council Vice President
- Cecil County Alfred Wein, County Administrator
- Cecil County Kordell Wilen, Chief, DPW Development Services Division
- Kent County William Pickrum, Commission President
- Kent County Amy Moredock, Director, Planning, Housing and Zoning
- Queen Anne's County Jim Moran, Commission President
- Queen Anne's County Rob Gunter, Community and Environmental Planner
- Town of Chestertown Chris Cerino, Mayor
- Town of Chestertown Liz Gross, Council Member
- Town of Chestertown Kees DeMooy, Zoning Administrator
Middle Eastern Shore
- Caroline County Wilbur Levengood, Commissioner
- Caroline County Katheleen Freeman, Director, Department of Planning, Codes & Engineering
- Caroline County Leslie Grunden, Planner III
- City of Cambridge Donald Sydnor, Commission President
- City of Cambridge Odie Wheeler, Director, Department of Public Works
- Dorchester County Ricky Travers, Council President
- Dorchester County Don Satterfield, Council Member
- Talbot County Dirck Bartlett, Council Member
- Talbot County Ray Clarke, County Engineer
- Talbot County Bill Wolinski, Environmental Engineer
- Town of Easton Robert Willey, Mayor
- Town of Easton Rick Van Emburgh, Town Engineer
- Town of Oxford Carole Abruzzese, Commission President
- Town of Oxford Gordon Graves, Town Commissioner
- Town of Oxford Cheryl Lewis, Town Administrator
Lower Eastern Shore
- City of Salisbury Jake Day, Mayor
- City of Salisbury Jim Ireton, City Council Member
- City of Salisbury Amanda Pollack, Deputy Director, Department of Public Works
- Somerset County Kymberly Kudla, Planner
- Town of Berlin Gee Williams, Mayor
- Town of Berlin Jane Kreiter, Director, Departments of Water Resources and Public Works
- Wicomico County John Cannon, Council President
- Wicomico County Keith Hall, Transportation & Long Range Planner
- Wicomico County Weston Young, Director, Department of Public Works
- Worcester County Jim Bunting, Commission President
- Worcester County Robert Mitchell, Director, Department of Environmental Programs
The supporting partners that helped create the Healthy Water Roundtable are: the Chesapeake Bay Foundation; Eastern Shore Land Conservancy; Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology; and University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension. Earth Data Incorporated provides the round table with consultant services. To access the Healthy Waters Round Table action plan, visit the Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology website. The full report can be found here.