SALISBURY – After meeting with local environmentalists to discuss the pros and cons of Wicomico County joining the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, the Wicomico County Council voted to move ahead ensuring a collaborative effort from all sides.
A resolution to join the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, and to make a supplemental appropriation from contingency to the County Executive’s Office in the amount of $25,000 for membership dues was approved in a unanimous vote by the Wicomico County Council this week.
According to Clean Chesapeake Coalition, in a state of sticker shock after being presented with its local Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), the County Council of Dorchester County reached out to county government officials across the State of Maryland with an appeal to merge for purposes of questioning public costs and efficacy of policies, programs and practices being mandated by the state and federal government in the name of saving the Chesapeake Bay.
The Clean Chesapeake Coalition evolved when seven Maryland counties agreed in late 2012 to join forces to collectively pursue improvement to the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay in a prudent and fiscally responsible manner.
Through comprehensive research and analysis of publicly available data and other resources, the coalition works to identify, advocate, and take action to develop and implement the most cost-effective policies, programs and practices that will measurably improve water quality.
In December, the council agreed to move forward with a recommendation to become a member of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which would include a $25,000 annual membership fee to join the organization and support its efforts.
Following the council’s decision local environmental groups spoke out in opposition. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Wicomico Environmental Trust (WET) and Wicomico Creekwatchers asked the council to reconsider joining the coalition.
In turn, the council invited local environmentalists to meet with them to discuss their concerns earlier this month.
“I had concerns in making a decision on this initiative. I believe that we have done our due diligence in trying to make the state aware of the concerns we have of regulations that are constantly coming down the pike as far as the Chesapeake Bay cleaning effort,” Councilwoman Sheree Sample-Hughes said on Tuesday. “I would like to reiterate that the information that was shared from the environmental groups…be infused in the plan so we can have the best of both worlds to ensure we are doing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed efforts as well as having a voice at the table as other regulations are passed.”
Karen Lukacs, Wicomico Environmental Trust executive director, said after speaking with county officials she felt more confident in the council’s decision.
“I am disappointed but I understand,” Lukacs said. “We hope that we can find a way to work together despite this, and also continue really good environmental measures the council and county executive director put forward.”