On September 11th, the DCL Watershed Planning Steering Committee held its first meeting, launching a process which will cummulate in a Watershed Plan by the fall of 2014. The Steering Committee is composed of 9 members jointly appointed by the County Commissioners and DNR. The group has 3 support staff, Deborah Carpenter from the County, Catherine Shanks from DNR, and Mike Bilek, a facilitator consultant. The citizen observers outnumbered Committee members, indicating the community interest in this endeavor and willingness to sit through 4 ½ hours of the meeting.
The primary focus of the work on the 11th was formalization of operating procedures conforming with the Maryland Open Meeting Law as well as “ground rules” of courtesy. An Executive Committee was selected which includes Chair David Myerberg, Pete Versteegen and the 3 support staff.
David Myerberg explained to Committee members that though they were appointed as individuals, there is the expectation each member will represent their various constituency groups. He asked member to actively engage in informational outreach to their constituencies, hold face-to-face meetings and obtain input from their groups. The 4 “resident” appointees are David Myerberg, Pete Versteegen, Lulu Gonella and Bob Hoffman. These four members are “lake people”. There is no watershed “resident” appointed to the Committee.
There are two appointees with watershed perspectives. Willie Lantz, UMD Extension staff, represents agricultural interests and John Forman, businessman, represents forestry interests. Bob Browning is responsible for outreach to the business sector and Steve Green to “recreation” interests. The 9th appointee is from Brookfield Renewable Power and will be contribute their perspective to the deliberations. .
DNR staff Catherine Shanks provided an overview of the watershed planning process which the Committee will undertake. She explained the framework for the Watershed Plan is “natural resources” protection.
The Steering Committee discussed a list of “issues” which they have already identified, reporting planning process as “putting together these pieces”. Nine issue areas have been identified: lake levels, Submerged Aquatic Vegetation, growth pressure, water quality, infrastructure, resident geese, erosion and sediment, industrial impacts, forestry and agriculture
In the final hour, deliberations were around preparation for the upcoming Public Meeting, one of two such meetings to be held. The goal of this first meeting is to get everyone in the watershed involved in identifying and prioritizing issue areas as well as gathering specific concerns and suggestions for addressing them. Various formats for the Public Meeting were discussed but no decision nor meeting date was finalized. [ The meeting has since been scheduled for 10/5 from 10-1 at Garrett College.]
Citizens who had sat through the 4 hour meeting were provided with an opportunity to offer their comments, limited to a timed 2 minutes each.
Ken Fisher reported there are many other DNR, state and local agency staff working on planning efforts in the watershed and recommended that the Steering Committee incorporate them into the planning process. Fisher urged to Committee to take the necessary time to develop the Public Meeting. He stated “A well organized and smoothly run first public meeting will do much to encourage public support.” (Full text of comments posted separately in FoDCL webpage.)
Barbara Beelar, Friends of Deep Creek Lake, expressed support work to create a watershed planning process. “The watershed approach to lake management is a complex, multi-faceted process offering many challenges.” She recommend edthe Committee begin goal setting using the Code of Maryland section on Deep Creek Lake. COMAR states the principle for lake management are “the protection of the lake as a natural resource, the preservation of its ecological balance, and furtherance of its highest use as a recreational resource”. Recreational use is not reflected in the issue list generated by the Committee. Beelar also recommended the Committee study the “first watershed plan” developed by DNR when the lake was purchased in 2001. Beelar noted “The issues and recommendations incorporated in the first watershed plan are still relevant today. We also need to understand why this first plan was not implemented. “
Ellen Williams, Chair of the FoDCL Board, asked the Committee to take the time to do the needed outreach to all watershed property owners and stakeholders. “You need to send out a letter to everyone in the watershed to provide information about the process and upcoming opportunities for public involvement” stated Williams. She also noted the “issue list” did not include lake or water management as an essential component of the plan.
Jess Whittemore, member of the Friendsville Town Council, criticized the composition of the Steering Committee noting the lack of representation from either the City of Friendsville or whitewater rafting interests. Whittemore noted such representation was necessary because Friendsville is in the DCL watershed.
No one from the Steering Committee corrected Whittemore. Friendsville is located in the DCL watershed.
Finally, Richard Matlick remarked on importance of the Steering Committee work. “There are serious problems which need to be addressed” . As a long term property owner, Matlick reported on increasing decline in recreational enjoyment. He said his grandchildren do not want to come to the lake because of all the grasses in the water. Matlick told the committee he has chosen not to invest in his property nor build a retirement home given everything going on. He expressed hope the planning process and the Committee’s work can change the outlook for the future at the lake.
The Steering Committee does plan to develop a web site to help inform the public about its work. http://www.dnr.state.md.us/ccs/dcl_wmp.asp. As of this posting, neither the committee minutes nor audio have been posted.