Op-Ed: A Bridge to Somewhere by Elizabeth Watson, Judy Gifford, and Janet Christensen-Lewis

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In the fall of 2018, the Maryland Transportation Authority will announce potential corridors for a third bridge across the Chesapeake Bay to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We have less than one year to make sure such a corridor does not cross into Kent County and destroy our amazing landscape and rural character.

No matter where the location, make no mistake, it will have an impact on the entire Eastern Shore. What is at stake is the Eastern Shore’s quality of life, heritage, and highly productive farmland. Should Kent County be the selected location, our small agrarian rural county with the smallest population and landmass in Maryland would be swamped with traffic and our open space littered with fast food chains. Our unique identity would be ended.

Any emphasis on just the “Bridge” is misleading and perhaps intentional to distract us from thinking about the access corridor that must go with the crossing. This bridge will not be some little two-lane span that drops cars onto country roads. No, it will be four or six lanes with all the development that comes with such a project.

MDTA will specify where those impermeable asphalt and concrete ribbons scar the landscape after a mile-wide corridor has been identified in the study process that has just begun. At this
point, we can only guess where a highway would transect Kent County. By imposing Maryland’s eminent domain to take protected lands, the destruction of the intact historic landscapes and open farmland of Kent County would be impossible to `mitigate.’

Maryland has designated $5 million for a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement, designed to narrow areas for a possible crossing from six zones, encompassing the entire Bay in Maryland, to a preferred corridor. In Tier 2, further environmental review will identify the actual route. Kent County has land within three of those zones. Every zone has its own unique set of conditions that will come under consideration. These include significant direct impacts on natural, human and cultural resources, plus secondary and cumulative impacts that transportation projects bring. The latter are often more significant and devastating to the fabric of communities. MDTA is rushing to make these evaluations impacting the entire Chesapeake Bay and the whole of Maryland to meet an artificially imposed deadline.

Reports produced by MDOT, MDTA and the information from the Task Force summary highlight numerous indicators that might be used in the assessments for another crossing.

First, Ocean City is a major economic engine for the State, second only to Baltimore as a contributor to the tourist industry. Ocean City tourism can expand when access becomes less constrained. Of course, this increased traffic will continue until once again there are more vehicles than highways to accommodate, continuing the vicious loop that building more roads perpetuates.

Second, a new bridge to the Eastern Shore would allow easy access to cheaper land and affordable housing for workers on the Western Shore without having to increase wages enough for them to afford housing closer to their work. Our efforts to protect open space have made Kent County an ideal target for sprawl from Baltimore and surrounding areas.

A third and perhaps less understood factor is freight transport moving within and through Maryland, estimated to be $1.6 trillion by 2040. The majority of this freight is moved by trucks.
The new 301 Bypass, when completed, will increase truck pressure from our north. In fact, Delaware Department of Transportation’s “purpose and need” statement for the connector identifies the 95/1/301 construction, in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, as an alternative route for trucks to bypass the congestion and tolls of the I-95 corridor. State transportation studies  give little to no consideration of improvements to rail lines as a path to lessen the load on our highways.

Once a terminus for a Bay Crossing is selected, it is unlikely to be changed in the future. NOW is the time to put an end to the Bay Crossing coming to Kent County that has been threatened since 1907. Our best defense is educated, organized and active citizens. Everyone who cares about the special attributes of our county should attend public meetings, submit comments and ask a lot of questions of our elected officials, MDOT and MDTA. Total transparency in the process, which to date has been lacking, can only happen if citizens make MDTA aware that we are informed and watching. The public must participate and know that there is urgency to participation. There will be no turning back once the Preferred Corridor is identified and the Record of Decision is published.

You are urged to stay involved and informed. This is going to be a community effort. Here are ways you can participate.

If you have not already written to the Bay Crossing Study with your comments, you can still submit them at http://www.baycrossingstudy.com/public-involvement/comment. From our conversations with MDTA, only about 400 comments have been submitted so far. Kent County must add many more comments.

Plan to attend a public information meeting that KCPA will host at Chestertown Firehouse Thursday January 25th at 6:30 PM. Information will be shared about statewide alliances, ways
or you to take part in the NEPA process, especially the “purpose and need” exercise scheduled for this spring and other important ways you can help. We will share information that KCPA
has obtained through contact and meeting with MDTA.

Contact our 36th district General Assembly representatives and the Kent County Commissioners to voice your concerns. Emphasize your expectation that the MDTA must distribute more than the bare minimum of information and provide adequate opportunities for meaningful public participation. Protest the artificial fast-track deadline.

(http://dls.maryland.gov/pubs/prod/NoPblTabLibResDocs/RosterByCounty.pdf)

MDTA has already added Venable, an American Lawyer 100 law firm as external legal representation. Be aware that a need and funds for legal representation will likely be necessary.

Elizabeth Watson, Judy Gifford, and Janet Christensen-Lewis are board members of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance. For more information please go here

I Didn’t Know about Mental Illness until I Did By Liz Freedlander

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For most of my life, like many of my friends and family, I knew hardly anything about mental illness until I started a consulting relationship for a few hours a month with Channel Marker. This piece about my experience has been writing itself in my head for a while.

I have had my heart broken open by the people who Channel Marker serves. I now know about persons diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness and their families. Please read these words again: SEVERE and PERSISTENT. You can often tell by looking that people living with mental illness do not fit our definition of normal. We want to look away. I don’t look away any more because I now know about mental illness.

The chemistry of the brain of mentally ill persons usually has been changed. In some cases, by exposure to terrible things as a child that have resulted in PTSD. All this time, I thought PTSD was relegated to war experiences. Channel Marker does serve war veterans. (One Vietnam vet still hears the screams of men and the sounds of gun-fire). It also serves children and youth diagnosed with PTSD.

Many of these ill persons suffer from schizophrenia, often occurring out of the blue while in their twenties. They hear voices or have visual hallucinations – often – sometimes constantly.

During a conversation at the Channel Marker Holiday Party, one of these young men and I were having a pleasant conversation when he apologized for wearing his sunglasses. He said, “They help me with the voices.” This was once a young boy, like any young boy, who grew up riding bikes with pals in his neighborhood and enjoying family vacations. Now, he can look a little scary.

For some reason the tattoos, including the one in the middle of his forehead, give him meaning in his difficult life. He is polite and sweet and has a sense of humor. He religiously takes his meds although the side effects make him feel debilitated. They help him cope.

I have met parents. The heartache never goes away. One mother said, “The stigma of mental illness makes me feel as if my son spends each day out in the middle of a field where he is pecked to death.” One father’s sadness was palpable as he explained that his son does not take his meds so his symptoms, out of control, make it very difficult to have a relationship.  Still this father  faithfully makes an effort. You can see the pain in this man’s eyes as he describes the vibrant young man with a blossoming career who was once his son.

Lisa is a grown woman whose children live with other families. She has pretty red hair like I once did. She has PTSD with symptoms of chronic depression and anxiety disorders. She told me her life story. I cried. Her childhood with a cruel, narcissistic mother portended poor choices of men in her life. The ultimate result was fleeing for her own survival from a marriage so abusive that she had to leave her children behind with their father. She mourns the loss of her kids. I leave it to your imagination as to what might be part of her story – when she wears a skirt, she always wears pants under it. Her anxiety causes her to be unable to work in an environment where she might be alone with a man.

But this is not the totality of my experience. I have experienced hope and help delivered in the most compassionate and professional manner by Channel Marker. While mental illness may not be curable; it is treatable. The caring staff see beyond the illness into the hearts and personhood of their clients. They provide emotional support, life-skills, goal setting, job-training and placement, triage for health problems, places to live, a peer group and just plain normal laughter. There are success stories.

Only the brave and the optimistic can do this work every day. I think they are heroes. Marty Cassell, a therapist who has worked at Channel Marker for 25 years and a married father of four boys, is tall and attractive but rarely smiles. I asked him one day if the work is heavy. He said, “I love my work because I can see positive changes in my clients. Do you know that in addition to my day job here at Channel Marker, I work evenings for Mid-shore Council on Family Violence to provide one-to-one counseling for battered women. I also have a support group for men who are batterers.” He answered my question.

There are victories to be celebrated because of Marty and his colleagues at Channel Marker. Lisa who lost her children is strong and clear about her past and her future. Her goal is to have a job in an agricultural setting and be an advocate for sustainable farming. She has poured her maternal love into her cats and has a fiancé. She is a student at Chesapeake College and was recently invited to take an honors course. She, like many others, credit their successes to Channel Marker.

Channel Marker annually serves about 400 individuals almost 50% of whom are ages 21 and younger, in Caroline, Talbot and Dorchester Counties.

Liz Freedlander has been a resident of Talbot County for 41 years. She was executive director of Talbot Hospice from 1990 to 2004 and recently retired as director of development from the Horn Point Laboratory after 10 years. She has been a fundraising consultant to a number of local nonprofits. Liz has been raising money for nonprofits since the age of 9 when she canvassed her neighborhood with a tin can and collected $5.94 for the Baltimore Symphony.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebrations Planned for Kent County

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The Chester Valley Ministers’ Association is pleased to announce two events in commemoration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Saturday, January 13, 2018, Graves Chapel U.A.M.E. Methodist Church at 10280 Big Stone Road in Millington will host LIFT UP OUR VOICES IN SONG at 2 p.m. Dedicated to the memory of Rev. Clarence Hawkins, the event will feature music, poetry, dance and the spoken word. Admission is free, but a freewill offering will be taken to benefit charities in that help families and individuals in Kent and northern Queen Anne’s counties in need of emergency services, including food and housing.

On Monday, January 15, 2018, the Chester Valley Ministers’ Association (CVMA) will host a celebration honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., A Call to Action—Get Involved—Unite. Breakfast will be served at 7 a.m. and the program will commence at 8 a.m. at the Rock Hall Fire Hall on Rt. 20 in Rock Hall. The keynote speaker will be Secretary Sam Abed, Esq., Maryland Department of Juvenile Services,

The Master of Ceremonies will be President Kurt Landgraf of Washington College. Music will be provided by The Chester River Chorale, Kent County High School Jazz Ensemble and The Sensational Stars. Special Presentations during the program will include annual Humanitarian Awards given to an individual and two high school students for significant contributions to the quality of life in Kent County. Vincent Hynson Memorial Youth Awards sponsored by the Kent County Arts Council will be given to three outstanding middle school students. Proceeds of the event support grants that will be announced at the Breakfast for community organizations who serve families and individuals in Kent County in need of emergency services and the Vincent Hynson Scholarship Fund. Tickets are $15 at the door or available from CVMA Members.

Contact: Lynn Dolinger, 410-778-0295 or email: lynn.thirdwish@gmail.com

Mid-Shore Health: Aspen Institute Cancels Rehab Center Contract

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The Star-Democrat reported today that a contract for a rehabilitation facility proposed by Recovery Centers of America at the Aspen Institute’s Wye Mills site has been terminated effective Dec. 21. The house is part of Aspen’s Wye River Conference Center in Queen Anne’s County.

The full story can be read here (Reader charges may apply)

Exelon: Analysis Shows Conowingo Revenues Insufficient to Fund Additional Sediment Mitigation

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Providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity has been the paramount focus for Exelon Generation and the Conowingo Dam for the last 90 years.

In December 2017, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy released a statement and accompanying report by Energy & Environmental Economics (E3) that incorrectly assessed the economic status of the Conowingo Dam. The NorthBridge Group, performed a detailed analysis of the E3 report and found that the E3 conclusions are fundamentally flawed due to a gross over-estimation of the future revenues of the Conowingo Dam.

The E3 report inaccurately inflates future revenues in two ways. First, the report greatly overestimates the dam’s capacity revenue, which Conowingo earns for being available as an electricity resource. The dam’s capacity revenue going forward is expected to be roughly 80 percent less than the E3 report estimate. Second, the report bases Conowingo’s future revenues on 2013 energy prices, which are much higher than today’s prices and expected future energy prices. Energy prices in the market available to Conowingo were 30-45 percent lower in 2016 and 2017 versus 2013, yet the E3 report ignored this fact.

When the E3 analysis is run using current information, the analysis demonstrates that Conowingo’s revenues are not even high enough to cover costs plus an adequate return, let alone sufficient to fund additional contributions for sediment. Conowingo provides significant benefits to the region, as confirmed by more than 50 studies since 2010.

As a member of the Chesapeake Bay community, Exelon Generation remains steadfast in our commitment to helping identify the most effective ways to address the health of the Bay.

Exelon Generation
Kennett Square, PA

 

NorthBridge Group Report

Radcliffe Creek School Announces New Head of School

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After an extensive search and interview process, the Radcliffe Creek School Board of Trustees is pleased to announce its selection of Meghan “Meg” Bamford as the new Head of School. This announcement follows the decision of Molly Brogan Judge, founding Director and the innovator behind such an extraordinary educational environment, to retire on June 30, 2018 after 22 years of dedicated service to the community.

Meghan “Meg” Bamford

Bamford will join Radcliffe Creek School from the Hopkinton School District in New Hampshire, where she currently holds the position of the Director of Student Services.

Bamford’s career started in the classroom first within an inner-city school in Chicago and then at the Landmark School in Massachusetts, a private school for children with language-based differences, where she taught students in grades two through eight. After moving to New Hampshire, she worked as a Reading and Writing Specialist for more than nine years. She co- created an innovative model for reading and writing instruction at the elementary level and then was asked to design and teach graduate courses and create summer programming at Rivier University based on this model. She holds two master’s degrees, one in Educational Psychology (University of Nottingham, England) and another in Education (Simmons College).

Bamford will be joined in this move by her husband, Eliot and three children, Annie, Lucy, and Owen. Her role as Head of School will begin June 30, 2018.

Bamford remarked, “It is such an honor to be selected to be Head of School. To be able to work with such a caring, innovative staff that works so hard to personalize each student’s learning and optimize his or her growth, is truly a gift. I look forward to working closely with Molly to ensure a smooth transition so that the school continues to flourish. I am grateful for the warm welcome I have received from the Board and the staff. When one walks into the school, it is clear that the Radcliffe Creek School is a child-centered, nurturing place where students flourish and teachers are passionate about learning. I am excited to begin our work together.”

Radcliffe’s Board President, Susan Newton-Rhodes, noted, “Finding a successor for Molly Judge presented no easy task for the Selection Committee, as they balanced a very strong pool of candidates, each with their own distinctive qualities and experiences. Change for any institution can prove challenging, especially in a small community and following a dynamic Founder. Recognizing Meg’s ability to expand on the foundation that Molly and her staff have built, the Board of Trustees support her in her new role as Head of Radcliffe and they welcome her to this community with her family.”

“Radcliffe’s community,” as stated by Judge, “Looks forward to the opportunities that a new Head of School will present. Meg’s easy going nature will lend itself well to the Radcliffe way of life. Her experience with children who thrive when learning in a different way and the management role that she presently holds will guide her well as she takes the lead of such a dynamic and engaging staff, supportive parent group, and enthusiastic student population. I look forward to assisting Meg and her family in this time of transition.”

Radcliffe Creek School is an independent day school with the mission of empowering children in a dynamic environment that celebrates unique learning. For more information about Radcliffe Creek School or Little Creek, the school’s preschool, which includes programs for children from infancy through pre-kindergarten.

please call for 410-778-8150 or the School’s website at www.radcliffecreekschool.org for more information

Meet the Candidates Series:  Maya Rockeymoore Cummings

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Maya Rockeymoore Cummings

Candidate for Governor, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings will be at the Kent County Democratic Headquarters, 357 High St., Chestertown on Saturday, January 13, at Noon to meet with interested voters.

Ms. Cummings is a former Congressional aide, National Urban League scholar, small businesswoman and the wife of Congressman Elijah Cummings.  The public is invited to hear about Ms. Cummings’ ideas and plans for this office.

For more information about Maya Rockeymoore Cummings see her campaign website.

Really Good Stuff: Washington College, Faculty and Staff Donates $28,000 to Local United Way

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Washington College is donating $28,000 to United Way of Kent County, after 82 faculty and staff responded to President Kurt Landgraf’s pledge to match whatever they contributed.

“I am just so proud of the Washington College community, and I appreciate the generosity and caring of this faculty and staff,” Landgraf says. “This United Way campaign result is yet another indication that we take our mission seriously—they’re not just words on a document, but a living action statement to support our community.”

In late fall, Landgraf asked College employees to consider signing up for a payroll deduction to United Way of Kent County, pledging that he would match whatever they raised. Last year, eight employees gave through the payroll deduction for a total of $1,248. As of December 14, 82 employees had signed up for a total donation of $13,944. Landgraf matched this with $14,000.

“Many members of our Washington College community, including students, staff, and faculty, have had close associations with United Way agencies in a number of capacities,” says Sarah Feyerherm, Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, and a member of United Way of Kent County’s Board of Directors. “But this recent financial commitment is emblematic of a recognition that we are all partners in improving the lives of Kent County residents. Kurt’s leadership and generosity was just contagious, and the response from our employees was heartwarming. My hope is that this is just the start of a sustained partnership between the College and the United Way of Kent County.”

United Way of Kent County raises and distributes funding to multiple organizations, with a focus on improving the health, education, and financial stability of Kent County residents. In addition to the College’s donations through the workplace campaign, the College has directly supported or provided resources for many United Way member organizations including Character Counts! Kent County, the Kent Center, St. Martin’s Ministries, the Community Food Pantry, Camp Fairlee/Easter Seals, Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties, Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council, Kent Forward, For All Seasons, Echo Hill Outdoor School, and the Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence.

Early in his tenure as Washington College President, Landgraf made United Way of Kent County a priority as a way for the College to do more to support the surrounding community.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I grew up an orphan. I know what it’s like to seriously need the help of others,” Landgraf says. “This is one of the reasons that I have always been a big supporter of the United Way, and why, as soon as I came to Washington College, I got involved in United Way of Kent County. I know how much good this organization can do. And I want to make sure that everybody at our College knows how much good it can do, how it can lift up whole segments of our community’s population that need help the most.”

Exelon’s Share for Mitigation on the Conowingo Dam by Tom Zolper

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The Conowingo Dam 20 miles north of the mouth of the Susquehanna River has been the focus of scientific scrutiny and concern since the 1990s, and public worry for the past five years. The reason is simple: the pond behind the dam that trapped dirt for decades now has filled up.

More of the dirt (also called sediment) and phosphorus clinging to the dirt are reaching downstream water. In addition, storms scour sediment and associated nutrients from the pond and flush it downstream.

These additional pollutant loads are a problem because we already have too much phosphorus and nitrogen in the Chesapeake Bay – from farms, sewage plants, and other sources. These chemicals are plant food, causing algae blooms that suck oxygen from the water when they die and decompose. The added sediment coming through the dam also is a concern for effects on downstream habitats.

When Bay states and the federal government agreed in 2010 to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake —the so-called Bay pollution diet—they thought we had more time to deal with the situation at the Conowingo. We don’t. What to do?

In 2015 the U.S. Army Corps said the most cost-effective solution was to reduce pollution reaching the dam from upstream in Pennsylvania and New York. Governor Hogan has also proposed a small $4 million pilot program to see if dredging at the pond could also be a part of the solution.

Whatever is determined to be the best solution or set of solutions, one thing is clear: it will cost more money. That’s why a new report commissioned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) offers some good news: The owner of the dam can help chip in.

The report, “An Economic Analysis of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Generating Station,” concluded Exelon can afford to contribute $27 million to $44 million a year to help fix or mitigate the problem and still make a healthy profit. The study used publicly available finance numbers about Exelon’s operations at the dam, as well as standard industry information. It was prepared for Water Power Law Group and CBF and TNC but researched and written by Energy+Environmental Economics in California. Exelon to date has offered to contribute only $200,000.

The company shouldn’t be responsible for the whole solution. It didn’t cause pollution from upstream farms, sewage plants and other sources to discharge into the Susquehanna and flow downstream.

While it is important to hold Exelon accountable for the impact of the dam on downstream water quality and habitat, it’s important to keep the Conowingo issue in context. First, the impacts of the lost trapping capacity and scouring during storm events are significant but not catastrophic. In fact, as the situation at the dam has worsened for the past few years, the water quality in the Bay has steadily been improving.

Also, studies show that the slug of new pollution moving past the dam will cause effects primarily on the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay. Most rivers that feed the Bay such as the Choptank, Nanticoke and others will not be impacted, nor will the thousands of fresh water streams in Maryland. Local counties and communities will remain responsible for cleaning up pollution in their backyards.

So, we can’t blame Conowingo for all our water woes. The dam is only one of many problems we face trying to clean up the Bay. But we can ask Exelon to do its share, just as we ask everyone else to pitch in. We know the company can afford it.

Tom Zolper is the assistant media director at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.