NEPA ex­pert speaks with bridge mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee

Kent County News - - NEWS - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@thekent­coun­tynews.com

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.

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