On March 7, 2016, the Commissioners formally adopted the Deep Creek Watershed Management Plan (WMP). This was the culmination of a multi-agency, citizen-led effort to create a comprehensive, best practices guide to ensure that one of Maryland’s most visited, revenue-generating sites is protected far into the future. In addition to protecting the lake’s sensitive natural resources, the plan addresses water quality, recreational activities, agency coordination and other topics of interest to citizens.
Public policy, programs, projects and even legislation, is often a reaction to a problem. The first step is to properly define the scope of the problem. Einstein is quoted as having said that if he had one hour to save the world he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. In the case of the Deep Creek WMP, the steering committee, composed of citizens and designed to have representatives of property owners, businesses, and forestry, recreational and agricultural interests, started with a public meeting to take comments to help them identify problems about which the Plan could make recommendations. Citizens expressed concerns about agency accountability and coordination and also with the accurate and timely dissemination of information and overall communication on important issues. Citizens expressed concerns about sedimentation in the lake, subaquatic vegetation and other water quality issues. Citizens expressed concerns about impacts felt from growth, including consequences of industrial growth, stormwater, old septic systems, public sewerage infrastructure and ensuring a balance between recreational opportunity and environmental stewardship. Citizens further expressed concerns about low lake levels, especially in drought months.
To properly understand the scope of the problems expressed, the steering committee divided the list of problems into four main areas – (1) accountability, agency coordination & public understanding, (2) water quality, (3) impacts from growth and (4) lake levels – and created subcommittees whose job it was to research these problems and suggest solutions. Each subcommittee met at least monthly and brought in experts to help them understand and define the problems and discuss the feasibility of possible solutions. Recommendations from the subcommittees were forwarded to the steering committee who had ultimate authority for crafting the plan.
The WMP addressed the concerns of citizens by formulating goals, objectives and strategies. Many of the recommendations involve education, incentives and research. None of the goals, objectives or strategies establish mandates, but simply recommend action be taken. A couple projects have already been started and/or completed. The DNR conducted a stream corridor assessment in the watershed during 2015, while the County Department of Planning & Land Management conducted a stormwater assessment in the North Glade Run subwatershed. Many recommendations, like the two recently acted upon, are based upon the notion that good science leads to good decision making.
Now that the WMP is adopted one of the most important next steps is to address concerns about interagency coordination and dissemination of information. Implementing solutions to problems often necessitates the cooperation of a number of agencies. Most notably MDE, DNR and the County all have an interest in a healthy watershed and in many cases are responsible for the permits and/or funding necessary to implement solutions. Those three agencies have been in discussions in the past 6 months to establish a better mechanism for coordination between each other, but also to discuss a solution that also allows for better communication and more consistent interaction with the public. Once this is established the implementation of solutions within the plan becomes a more attainable goal.
The WMP is meant to be a fluid document – one which is updated on a regular basis. Project priorities may change as needs arise and circumstances change. The WMP can be viewed on-line at https://www.garrettcounty.org/planning-land-development/deep-creek-lake-watershed-management-plan. Any questions about the plan or its implementation can be directed to Deborah Carpenter at email@example.com.