The Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) is pushing for better technical assistance to local governments as they work to meet their water pollution reduction goals under the third and final phase of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Specifically, LGAC is considering the creation of a state-specific circuit rider program that can provide assistance to low capacity counties and municipalities.
LGAC held a forum in Winchester, Virginia, on September 26 to discuss and develop a proposal for the creation of the circuit rider program as well as an interstate technical assistance provider network. Key concerns that were discussed during the forum included: (1) ensuring the program was tailored to the unique needs of local governments in different states; (2) not duplicating existing efforts; (3) maintaining local government autonomy; (4) ensuring the program produces meaningful results; and (5) creating a viable and sustainable fiscal structure for the program. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp attended the forum and the subsequent LGAC meeting on September 27.
At its meeting, LGAC discussed the results of the forum and received updates on the Midpoint Assessment of the Bay TMDL, the Conowingo Dam, and the Bay Barometer local government outreach program. Representatives from each attending state also meet amongst themselves to discuss local issues.
LGAC is an advisory body within the Chesapeake Bay Program that provides recommendations regarding the TMDL needs and challenges of local governments to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council. The Council, which is comprised of the executives of all of the Bay watershed states, coordinates and directs the Bay restoration efforts. Current Maryland county representation on LGAC is provided by Kent County Commissioner Ronald Fithian. Knapp has been serving as an informal alternate member until a second Maryland county vacancy can be filled.
A Bay Journal article (2018-09-26) reported on an earlier message delivered by LGAC Chair and former Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams to the Chesapeake Executive Council in August. From the article:
“Local governments can be resourceful, innovative and effective partners in watershed protection and restoration,” said Bruce Williams, chair of the Chesapeake Bay Program Local Government Advisory Committee and the former mayor of Takoma Park, MD. “However, we need the tools and resources required for success.”
But in their written report to the council, local officials seemed to question whether their concerns, much of which involve adequate funding as well as technical and staff support, will be listened to and addressed during the plan-writing process.
“The need for more resources remains a key barrier to local governments participating more fully in protecting and restoring water resources in our communities,” they wrote. “State and federal governments must increase funds allocated for local implementation.”
The article noted that LGAC offered several recommendations to the Council, including: (1) better engagement with local governments during the development of the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans; and (2) providing tools and resources for local governments to succeed.
LGAC’s next quarterly meeting is scheduled to take place November 29-30 in Washington, DC.