NEPA expert speaks with bridge monitoring committee
CHESTERTOWN — The Kent County Bay Bridge Monitoring Committee heard from an expert March 28 on federally mandated environmental studies and the importance of staying involved with one currently in the works for a new Chesapeake Bay crossing. The Maryland Transportation Authority is conducting a yearslong National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA, study to determine the effects of a third crossing. The agency has not determined a corridor yet for the crossing. Some in Kent County fear that a crossing here would destroy the area’s rural heritage. Others want a crossing here and the po- tential economic development it could bring. Carl Gallegos, an international environmental and natural resources management consultant, presented information on NEPA studies to the county’s bridge committee March 28. He spoke from his experiences with environmental studies as an environmental officer with the U. S. Agency for International Development. In his role, Gallegos evaluated projects funded by the federal government spread out between 28 countries. He worked with studies similar to the current effort on the Bay. Gallegos said that an entire review of the MdTA’s scoping study, which will help state surveyors determine what area of the Bay to build a bridge, should be presented in spring 2019. That fall, a draft of the environmental impact study, or EIS, should be published by the agency. “In my view, construction of a new bridge is inevitable,” Gallegos said. “And I think it is important that a logical approach be taken to review the NEPA EIS, and not take an emotional approach to this.” Gallegos said members of the committee and the public, needed to use the study as a tool to determine where and how the bridge will be built. Gallegos said the most important thing for community members is to stay involved with the study as it evolves. “You as an individual have a duty to yourself to review online what’s being published, when it’s being published and to be aware,” Gallegos said. “That’s the key thing, you be aware — don’t wait for them to tell you.” Amy Moredock, the county’s director of planning, housing and zoning, has been designated as a participating agent in the NEPA study and the person of contact assigned to the bridge committee. “We have to conduct the business that is focused on monitoring that (NEPA) study,” Moredock told committee members. “And if this group is perceived by the state, as it already is to a degree, as an advocacy group with an agenda, the (Kent County) commissioners are not going to be in as strong as a position as they need to be when it is time for them to make comments.” Moredock said it was important to let advocacy groups speak at committee meetings. She suggested meeting with groups like the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance and Stop the Span. She said it was important to discuss community activism in the county with these groups. Committee member Mike Waal said he would resign if his role with the group interfered with his citizen activism. “Because I’m against it (a crossing into Kent County). And if I can’t voice that as a citizen because I’m on this committee, then I’m off the committee,” Waal said. Moredock said that the committee’s charge is to uphold the Kent County Comprehensive Plan for land use and development. The plan states the county’s opposition to a Bay crossing in Kent County.