(Posted by Mary Ann Lisanti.)
Two decades ago, when the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort began, the leadership of local officials was viewed as nice, but not essential. Times have changed. Today, with the deadline to develop local Watershed Implementation Plans looming, it’s clear that when it comes to improving the health of our local rivers and streams, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay, the elected leaders of town and county governments and the appointed leaders of local soil conservation, storm water, and planning districts throughout the Chesapeake watershed will be the ones to make it happen.
However, the feedback coming from local government is simply this: They need information, direction, and flexibility in choosing approaches, otherwise budget challenges will keep them from reaching their goals.
As the chair of the Local Government Advisory Committee to the Chesapeake Executive Council, it has become clear to me that there is a real disconnect between the expectations of the federal officials managing the new Chesapeake TMDL process and the understanding of many of the local government officials now charged with developing the plans to implement watershed improvements.
This is a critical moment that calls for clear, direct communication to local governments so local officials understand what they need to do, and understand the benefits their work holds for their communities.
Our committee, called LGAC for short, has begun to address this need. We worked with private funders and communication professionals to develop an initial education piece for local government leaders. We plan to follow it with more information. Last week in Richmond I presented the need for communication to the Chesapeake Executive Council and the Bay Program leaders. We now have their attention, but we need more help to get out the word.
There are 1,800 units of local governments in the watershed and nearly 11,000 elected officials. Reaching them all will take time. Individuals can help. The senior Bay leaders who created this blog and the Chesapeake Bay Action Plan can be of particular help. You are all influential, committed, and have been for a long time. You understand how the actions taken locally benefit not just that community, but the system as a whole. You can help us reach leaders in your communities.
Download a copy of our report, Our Waters, Our Towns, and put it in the hands of local elected officials and influential community leaders. Help us fill the information gap. Help them understand what they need to do, and how it will benefit them and their community.