The Patuxent River is the longest and largest river in Maryland, flowing 115 miles through 7 counties and supporting 600,000 people before it reaches the Chesapeake Bay. It originates in Howard County, along with two large tributaries — the Little and Middle Patuxent.  Columbia’s three “lakes” are impoundments of the Little Patuxent. Most of the county is in the Patuxent watershed.

So vital is this river to Maryland that it has a Watershed Act and a Policy Plan dedicated to the river’s restoration, along with a state-mandated commission. For nearly 40 years, members of the Patuxent River Commission have been appointed by the governor with one assignment: advocate for the protection and enhancement of the Patuxent River. 

But not, apparently, by saying anything out loud. According to a recent legal memo from the State Planning Office, the Patuxent River Commission is not allowed to issue public statements to protect the river. 

And in particular, the Commission is not allowed to comment on private development proposals. Even if those developments will be built directly on the river, in Targeted Ecological Areas designated by the state for special protection. Such as, for example, the townhouse development called The Settlement in Savage proposed for a wooded area next to Savage Mill. 

The Maryland General Assembly empowers a watchdog and the Maryland State Department of Planning tries to muzzle it. 

This is a violation of the public trust and the decisions of the General Assembly. It is a mis-use of state authority to support private developers at the expense of the environment. It is a direct contradiction of the purported goals of the Patuxent River Watershed Act. 

Forty years after enactment, the state’s land use and development policies continue to pollute the Patuxent River despite the combined efforts of the Patuxent River Commission, the Patuxent Riverkeeper, and countless concerned citizens and organizations. 

For our health, for our economy, and for our future, Maryland citizens demand strong legislation to protect and restore our environment. If anything, our legislation needs more teeth, not a muzzle.

Sign the petition to demand the right of the Patuxent River Commission to publish its findings. 

Contact the candidates for Attorney General, Brian Frosh and Craig Wolf. Ask them how they would interpret the Commission’s Charter: is it to protect the Patuxent River or private real estate developers? 

Thank you for raising your voice with us.

The People’s Voice

Joanne Heckman, Secretary

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