Montgomery County and Climate Change

Montgomery County and Climate Change

The November elections brought a new County Executive and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Director as well as new County Council members. County Executive Marc Elrich was widely backed by an environmental community eager for more vision in the areas of water quality, climate change, and waste stream reduction. In February Mr. Elrich convened a meeting of county wide environmental leaders to introduce them to his new DEP Director Adam Ortiz. The County Executive and Mr. Ortiz engaged in discussions with more than 40 activists fueled by preparation as subgroups who came ready to brainstorm ideas and solutions. It was agreed that addressing climate change is the most urgent topic and many pressing resource issues fall under the umbrella of this overwhelming threat. Another meeting was held in March and regular meetings are planned in the future. Mr. Elrich wants to see a more aggressive environmental agenda. For instance, he is not convinced the WSSC needs a mid-river intake if the sediment entering Watts Branch can be significantly reduced. A watershed tour is being planned for May to highlight problems exacerbated by increased flooding and more frequent rain events. He also would like to close the Dickerson incinerator, begin recycling food waste, address social justice, and add climate change adaptation to our efforts to reduce the effects of human activities on our rapidly warming planet. It's an exciting time for Montgomery County and we've learned from other regions that local innovation is key to pulling our precious Earth back from the edge.

Victory: Canoe Cruisers Lawsuit for Potomac River Access

submitted by Barbara Brown

The Canoe Cruisers Association (CCA) of Greater Washington DC ‘s lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard resulted in a victory for the canoe group. Filed in September, Canoe Cruisers charged that the U.S. Government had unlawfully created a permanent security zone that blocked the public’s legal right to access and enjoy the Potomac River when the President golfs. The old improperly written Directive’s security zone cut through the rapids below the Seneca Dam and prevented access to the Potomac at Algonquin and Riley’s Lock as well as the George Washington Canal. It was enforced rigorously by an armed boat containing representatives from the Coast Guard, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the Secret Service. Because the original Directive did not follow legal procedures that included taking public comments into account, the Canoe Cruisers, represented by Democracy Forward and chaired by Barbara Brown, became the plaintiff. The government responded, asking the case be dismissed with the caveat that the Coast Guard could rewrite its Directive. To our surprise and delight the Coast Guard’s new Directive was presented three days before the Canoe Cruisers Association was to legally respond.

After more than a year of legal and public pressure from the Canoe Cruisers and others in the paddling and conservation community, the Federal Government reversed course and issued an updated interim final rule that meets nearly all of the groups’ demands.

Effective immediately (March 21, 2019), the revised interim final rule:

  • Significantly reduces the overall length of the security zone and ensures access to boat launch sites and important waterways;

  • Creates a 250-yard-wide transit lane that provides passage for watercraft through the zone near the Maryland shoreline; and

  • Requires the Coast Guard to notify the public, via a website and a recorded message on a dedicated telephone line, when the security zone is in effect. Under the prior rule, the Coast Guard provided notice through a radio channel very few river paddlers use.

“This is a victory for the rule of law that says the President cannot arbitrarily restrict the public’s access to our shared natural resources to accommodate his frequent golf outings,” said Democracy Forward Executive Director Anne Harkavy.

Please refer to the Canoe Cruisers webpage for documents and media responses.

Synturf: HB 1118 (Prohibition of Purchasing Synthetic Turf) and HB 1142 (Synthetic Turf Disposal)

submitted by Carol Van Dam

Two bills crafted by MoCo Safe Play Activists did not make it through the Maryland Assembly this year but momentum is building among the general public and state lawmakers alike for natural grass fields and 2020 could be our year. According to State District 16 delegate Ariana Kelly who co-sponsored both bills, one to ensure the safe disposal of used synthetic turf playing fields (HB 1142) and the other to ban the use of taxpayer dollars to install more synthetic turf fields at public parks, (HB1118) were unsuccessful. HB 1142 was reported unfavorably out of committee while HB 1118 never made it out of committee.

Kelly has informed us that she received “a high volume of constituent emails“ on both bills and vowed to “continue to support legislation that protects the safety and health of Marylanders,” and promotes a “greener Maryland for all us.” Like Kelly, we will not abandon that fight.

We thank Coalition for Safe, Healthy Playing Fields members Kathleen Michels and Diana Conway for briefing us on efforts to maintain and return to natural grass fields at our General Meeting last month.

Potter Glen Development

submitted by Ginny Barnes

Five houses are proposed on 2 acre lots on the corner of Glen and Query Mill Roads. WMCCA has been working to address issues related to these two important Rustic Roads and the impacts created by five driveways and the road/driveway concerns for two existing houses on Moran Court, which runs to the interior of the proposed project. The potential impacts to Query Mill Road include loss of roadside trees to improve line of sight, the placement of driveways, and the configuration of forest conservation easements.


Ken Bawer, Jill Phillips, Barbara Hoover, Kathy Petitt, and Carol Falk will identify candidates and Officers for the WMCCA Board to be voted on at the May 8, 2019 General Meeting.