Up Date on Ten Mile Creek

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 10:59am

Dear Friends of Ten Mile Creek,
 

The Montgomery County Planning Department held a Community Meeting on the Ten Mile Creek Master Plan Amendment on Monday night, 2/25/13.  

Below is my summary of this meeting, with short highlights followed by more details.
 
 
Short Highlights
* Attendance was robust -- and included close to a hundred citizens.  Many were from Clarksburg and also from around the county who support protecting Ten Mile Creek and its watershed.  We estimated that roughly half of these folks were inspired by our action alerts to turn out - including the alerts sent by ANS and MCA to all of their members.
 
* Topics presented by the staff and their consultants included the uniquely high quality of Ten Mile Creek and its watershed.  Planners Valdis Lazdins and Mary Dolan presented the 1994 Master Plan amendment elements, and Biohabitats consultant Jennifer Zeilinski described the existing watershed, habitat and water quality biological conditions.  
 
* Planner Val Lazdins said that the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan for Ten Mile Creek (Stage 4) "is our starting point; based on the outcome of that analysis, do we go up or down in terms of building densities, land uses, and distribution of development?  We'll have to see based on that initial analysis."
 
* Responses from the audience to the focus on the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan, and to the prospect of reliance on experimental ESD stormwater management technologies for such a high-quality, sensitive stream, ranged from skeptical - to downright upset- with the apparent focus on the buildout scenario of the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan and reliance on unproven ESD mitigation measures (though Planning Staff Director Rose Krasnow later told me there would be 2 additional scenarios).
 
* The timeline for this Master Plan amendment is on a fast track, with a March 14th Planning Board session coming up soon.
 
 
 
More Details
 
Attendees included two ANS Board members - Mike Gravitz and Patty O'Malley - , and four ANS staffers - Debra Prybyla, Cathy Wiss, Dolores Milmoe and Diane Cameron.  To list just a sampling of other ANS members and MCA activists:  - several ANS Water Quality Monitors attended, including Ed Pfister,  volunteers Becky Cromwell and Adrienne Nicosia.  
 
Our partners, Caroline Taylor of Montgomery Countryside Alliance, and Paul Hlavinka of Muddy Branch Alliance were there, along with Ann Smith, leader of the Seneca Creek Alliance, Jim Hall, Ellen Pearl and Johnny Haney. DEP Senior Biologist Keith Van Ness and Planner Mark Symborski, both of whom contributed to the scientific information, were there.
 
Councilmember Craig Rice, and Claire Iseli of Councilmember Elrich's office attended.  Botanist John Parrish was also there. (About 5 developer reps attended, including Bob Kaufmann, Bob Harris and Jim Soltesz.)
 
Topics presented by the staff and their consultants included the uniquely high quality of Ten Mile Creek and its watershed.  Planners Valdis Lazdins and Mary Dolan presented the 1994 Master Plan amendment elements, and Biohabitats consultant Jennifer Zeilinski described the existing watershed, habitat and water quality biological conditions.  
 
* Ten Mile Creek watershed land cover was reported to be at present 46% forested and 4% impervious. 
 
* The "steep slopes, shallow bedrock, and erodible soils" were noted, along with the high biological quality of Ten Mile Creek (though to my taste it was featured in a somewhat general way).
 
*  In response to a question, Ms. Zeilinski said that the ANS water quality monitoring data, along with that of DEP, was incorporated into the existing conditions report. 
 
* The watershed's Interior Forest plays an important role in connecting the woodlands of Little Bennett Regional Park to those of Black Hills Regional Park - a "connector of two biological hubs."  (We credit John Parrish and the late Bob DeGroot for teaching us the need for interior forest connectedness.)
 
The consultant then focused on the new stormwater management mandate in Maryland-  Environmental Site Design - and how these ESD practices such as rain gardens and permeable pavements (along with buffers) could be used to mitigate the stormwater runoff from any future developments in Ten Mile Creek.  
 
Planner Val Lazdins said that the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan for Ten Mile Creek (Stage 4) "is our starting point; based on the outcome of that analysis, do we go up or down in terms of building densities, land uses, and distribution of development?  We'll have to see based on that initial analysis."
 
Responses from the audience to the focus on the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan, and to the prospect of reliance on experimental ESD stormwater management technologies for such a high-quality, sensitive stream, ranged from skeptical - to downright upset- with the apparent focus on the buildout scenario of the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan to be mitigated with stormwater engineering practices that are unproven to protect high quality streams (though Planning Staff Director Rose Krasnow later told me there would be 2 additional scenarios).  Several questions during the public session elicited an acknowledgement from Valdis Lazdins, and the consultant Jennifer Zeilinski, that no high-quality, sensitive stream and its watershed have been documented elsewhere to have been protected from large development impacts, through reliance on these ESD-type practices such as rain gardens and permeable pavements.  
 
Several people logically asked when the meeting broke up, "If all they are going to do is affirm the 94 Master Plan, then there's no point to this effort and they are wasting the public's resources doing this Amendment."  
 
Melane Hoffman of Clarksburg asked about traffic issues (but the answer wasn't very revealing.)  During the public Q&A, ANS Board member Mike Gravitz commented that the County was proposing to "...experiment with unproven stormwater technologies in our last, best creek...this doesn't make any sense." Several other citizens made similarly skeptical comments.  Caroline Taylor asked whether they were looking at groundwater impacts of future developments (the answer was yes,) and I asked whether biological water quality endpoints were going to be modeled (in addition to pollutant loads), whether land cover conditions of imperviousness, construction and forest cover were going to be studied, along with consideration of limits on imperviousness, and Mary Dolan answered Yes to all of my questions.
 
When the meeting broke up, I asked Planning staff director Rose Krasnow whether additional scenarios beyond the 94 Clarksburg Master Plan were going to be fully studied, since the presentations left us wondering -- to put it mildly -- and she said definitely yes - that there would be two additional development/ creek protection scenarios beyond the baseline scenario of "The 94 Master Plan plus stormwater managment." 
 
The timeline for this Master Plan amendment is on a fast track, with a March 14th Planning Board session coming up soon.
We will keep you posted on our further responses to what we've learned -- and will share with you additional ways to be active to protect our County's Last, Best Creek.
We are working to hone our message on how to effectively protect Ten Mile Creek -- while allowing some further development in its watershed.
 
- Diane
 
Diane Cameron
Conservation Director
Audubon Naturalist Society