- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The Maryland Department of the Environment has denied a permit for the final three phases of the cross-county connector, citing an incomplete permit application as the reason for denial.
MDE Chief of Nontidal Wetlands Division Amanda Sigillito sent a letter to Director of Planning and Growth Management Peter Aluotto and the Charles County commissioners dated Nov. 1, stating that the department’s final decision is to deny the nontidal wetlands and waterways permit for the next stages of the connector, intended to connect Waldorf to the western part of the county.
Phases five, six and seven of the connector include Middletown Road to Bensville Road, from Bensville Road to Prince Edward Drive and from Prince Edward Drive to Indian Head Highway.
In the letter, Sigillito wrote that the county has not provided all of the information MDE needs to complete its review of the application under “the applicable nontidal wetlands and waterway construction laws and regulations.”
Sigillito wrote that while the county did provide two additional road alignments to reduce wetland impacts, the county did not provide additional “minimization measures” such as reduced road width and speed reductions that MDE requested in a Nov. 3, 2009, letter to the county.
In addition, Sigillito wrote that the county did not provide, “a detailed floodplain study for the proposed bridge over Mattawoman Creek; a floodplain study report for the 2-, 10-, and 100-year storm events for pre- and post-construction; drainage area for all other waterway crossings; and stream diversions and sequences of construction.”
Additional missing information includes more information to the Maryland Historical Trust about its mitigation plans for property the trust owns and not enough detail in its mitigation plans of Old Woman’s Run.
The county had proposed “increasing stream buffers based on stream order and proximity to steep slopes; reducing the extent of impervious surfaces to the maximum extent practicable on a per acre basis; utilizing mitigation opportunities to provide additional offsets of any potential threats to Old Womans Run; and committing to annual monitoring of Old Womans Run,” county planners noted in a Dec. 6, 2010, letter to MDE.
Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) said she was “not terribly surprised” at the decision and appreciated the clarity of MDE’s letter.
“I appreciated MDE for providing such a thorough and complete letter because the county commissioners have important responsibility for how to bond CIP projects, as many are in the county’s queue,” Kelly said.
Kelly said she was interested in hearing from the county attorney, staff recommendations and feedback from fellow commissioners on Tuesday at their regular meeting.
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said, “I’m obviously pleased that MDE denied the permit, and also not surprised considering the environmental degradation the road will cause.”
Robinson said the letter was “definitive” in its explanation, and indicated that MDE had put a lot of effort into its review of the county’s application.
Robinson said that he was looking to focus funds intended for the cross-county connector for capital improvement projects that needed immediate attention, including making Billingsley Road safer.
Commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) and Commissioner Debra Davis (D) were unable to be reached for comment.
Collins has said he is in support of the cross-county connector.
Both Collins and Davis said at a commissioners’ meeting Sept. 13 that they did not want to be responsible for allowing the permit application for the connector to lapse.
Jim Long, president of the Mattawoman Watershed Society, said, “We’re very pleased at this action. We’ve been trying to save the Mattawoman for quite a while. It has been declining, and this highway would have pushed it over the edge. We can go on to fixing more problems using the comprehensive plan.”
The county has the right to appeal the decision to the Charles County Circuit Court within 30 days of receiving the letter.
Unless there is a substantial change in the application, the county cannot reapply for the permit until May 1, six months after the date of the letter, and will have to submit a new application.