Tier Map, Conowingo Dam Among Top 10 Cecil County Issues for 2017

In light of the election of new Cecil County Executive Alan McCarthy, a Cecil Whig article (2017-01-04) identified 10 key County issues worth watching in 2017. Among the issues identified was the review of the County’s septic tier map and the submission of proposals to address nutrient and sediment pollution from the Conowingo Dam. From the article:

Tier map revisions?

Just before the end of 2016, the Cecil County Council adopted a former “placeholder” tier map into the county’s official comprehensive plan, despite an outcry from environmentalists who called the adopted map illegal.

The map is an important plan for the county’s future growth and preservation, but former County Executive Tari Moore chose to submit a map with the bare minimum placed in the most restrictive level for development. Farmers generally supported the decision to retain their lands developable value, but environmentalists voiced concern that it left too much vulnerable to development.

Before approving the map in December, the resolution was amended by a majority of the council to include a provision requesting that newly-elected County Executive Alan McCarthy appoint a committee to review the map with respect to the comprehensive plan and offer improvements.

It will be interesting to see who is chosen to work on such a committee and what their recommendations will be. Cecil County has long been one of the only holdouts against the tier map legislation and hasn’t found a groundswell of support from the Republican Hogan administration.

If improvements are not proposed, environmentalists have vowed to take the issue to court, meaning the tier map issue may be far from over.

Progress at dam

In July, Gov. Larry Hogan chose a cliff overlooking the Conowingo Dam to announce his administration’s sharpened focus on finding out more about the role Susquehanna River sediment plays in the pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

Potential dredging of the sediment that has reached its storage capacity behind the Conowingo Dam is one preventative measure Hogan is considering, a position he reinforced Tuesday in the announcement of his 2017 environmental goals.

“It can’t trap any more sediment … I’ve said all along that Maryland should be leading the charge to clean up the Bay,” the governor said during his July Cecil County tour. “We must address the sediment issue, which has been ignored for years.”

After conducting Maryland’s first Conowingo Dam Summit at the Donaldson Brown Center in Port Deposit, Hogan announced the formation of a multi-agency work group to seek innovative solutions to reduce pollution that threatens the Chesapeake Bay. A formal request for information served as the tool to gather information from the private sector on potential solutions for the work group.

Recommendations from that RFI are expected to be among the ways Hogan works on environmental issues in 2017.

The other eight issues identified in the article included: (1) the political impact of President-elect Donald Trump; (2) job growth and economic development; (3) the upgrade of Fair Hill International’s equestrian center; (4) starting the public school year after Labor Day; (5) construction of a public recreation center in Elkton; (6) state legislation to expand use of the Hatem Bridge E-ZPass transponder to the Tydings (Interstate 95) Bridge during rush hour; (7) planning and development of the Basell research and development facility site; and (8) completion of two Maryland State Highway Administration traffic roundabout projects in Fair Hill and Elkton.