MACo Highlights County Needs to Climate Change Adaptation Working Group

MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Maryland Municipal League (MML) Government Relations Director Candace Donoho outlined local government needs on climate change adaptation before the Maryland Commission on Climate Change’s Adaptation and Response Working Group on May 22. Knapp stressed that local governments had three key needs: (1) information; (2) resources; and (3) no new planning or land use mandates.

“Adaptation” is the term used to cover how governments, businesses, and citizens should respond to the effects of climate change, such as extreme weather, severe heat, flooding, and sea level rise. The Working Group is formulating recommendations to the Commission on what the State should provide to local governments for climate change adaption. Knapp and Donoho were asked to address the Working Group, which is chaired by Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources Mark Belton.

In his presentation, Knapp stated that State information on climate change adaptation should be accurate, practical, and avoid linkage with political agendas. He stressed that while the State, federal government, and other participating stakeholders maintained useful information for counties, the State could offer a “one step” webpage with links to all of these resources gathered into one place. Knapp also stressed the importance of local government adaptation case studies, with lessons learned from both good and bad outcomes. Knapp cited previous planning projections by the Coast Smart Council regarding sea level rise and Town of Crisfield in Somerset County.

Regarding resources, Knapp stated that State funding support for counties is critical. While acknowledging that State monies were limited, Knapp argued that county funding needs for adaptation planning were variable and funding could be targeted to assist those jurisdictions with the most need. Additionally, Knapp noted that State adaptation funding could also be targeted where rebuilding is already taking place if the additional funding could further strengthen adaptation. Knapp noted that the rebuilding of downtown Ellicott City in Howard County after massive flooding might have benefited from such funding.

Finally, Knapp said that MACo would oppose any new planning mandates regarding adaptation. Knapp stressed that counties were addressing climate change through a wide variety of policies and documents and not just their comprehensive plans.

Donoho’s comments were similar to Knapp’s, highlighting the need for flexibility given the vast size and capability differences among Maryland’s municipalities. Donoho also discussed the need for technical information and money. Donoho noted MML’s firm opposition to new or additional planning mandates, noting that local governments are still working to integrate planning mandates from previous years and that many adaptation policies are being carried out through other means than the comprehensive plan.

Both Knapp and Donoho stressed the need for ongoing communication by the State with MACo, MML, counties, and municipalities. Such communication could be done directly or through regional meetings and should include both elected and non-elected local officials.

After a question and answer period Belton thanked Knapp and Donoho for their information and pledged that the Working Group would work to actively communicate with local governments as it finalizes its recommendations to the Commission. The Working Group expressed interest in participating in MML’s fall conference and MACo’s winter conference to host forums on climate change adaptation.

Useful Links

Maryland Commission on Climate Change Webpage