About the Commission

Commission Information



Questions?

... or information about the Critical Area Program or questions relating to State oversight of local programs, e-mail Lisa.Hoerger@maryland.gov or call 410-260-3478.

 CAC logo

Critical Area Commission
1804 West Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

Telephone:410-260-3460
Fax:410-974-5338

 CAC header

About the Commission and Its Members



The Chesapeake Bay is the largest and most productive estuary in the United States.

shore line rocks

The Bay is nearly 200​ miles long and is fed by 48 major rivers, 100 smaller rivers, and thousands of tiny streams and creeks. The Bay's diverse and complex watershed covers 64,000 square miles and provides habitat for 2,700 species of plants and animals. The watershed is also a major population center where 15 million people live, work, and recreate. Population in the watershed is expected to increase to 18 million by the year 2020.

As early as the 1960s, there was a growing awareness that the resources of the Chesapeake Bay watershed were declining largely due to the tremendous pressure placed upon sensitive resources by a rapidly expanding population. In response to concerns about the quality and productivity of the Chesapeake Bay, the General Assembly enacted a comprehensive resource protection program for the Bay and its tributaries.

The Critical Area Act, passed in 1984, was significant and far-reaching, and marked the first time that the State and local governments jointly addressed the impacts of land development on habitat and aquatic resources.

The law identified the "Critical Area" as all land within 1,000 feet of the Mean High Water Line of tidal waters or the landward edge of tidal wetlands and all waters of and lands under the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

The law created a statewide Critical Area Commission to oversee the development and implementation of local land use programs directed towards the Critical Area that met the following goals:

  • Minimize adverse impacts on water quality that result from pollutants that are discharged from structures or conveyances or that have run off from surrounding lands;
  • Conserve fish, wildlife, and plant habitat in the Critical Area; and
  • Establish land use policies for development in the Critical Area which accommodate growth and also address the fact that, even if pollution is controlled, the number, movement, and activities of persons in the Critical Area can create adverse environmental impacts.

Back to Top


Roles and Responsibilities of the Commission

Pier image

Courtesy of Wes Burton

The Commission was created by the Critical Area Act in 1984. The Commission was initially charged with adopting regulations and criteria necessary to effectively implement the Act. This effort was completed in 1985; whereupon the Commission was required to review and approve all local government plans, programs, ordinances, and regulations that were proposed as part of a jurisdiction's Critical Area Program. This review and approval process took several years, but all local Critical Area Programs were operational in 1990.


Today the Commission's primary responsibilities are the following:

  • Review and approve State projects on State-owned land in the Critical Area;
  • Review and approve State or local agency actions resulting in major development on private lands or lands owned by local jurisdictions; and
  • Review and approve all changes to a jurisdiction's Critical Area Program, including changes to ordinances, regulations, and maps.

Back to Top


Composition

The Commission consists of 29 voting members who are appointed by the Governor. The composition of the Commission is as follows:

A chairman, appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, who serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

Thirteen individuals appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, each of whom is a resident and an elected or appointed official of a local jurisdiction, and may only serve on the Commission while they hold local office. At least one of the 13 must be an elected or appointed official of a municipality. Each is selected from certain counties or from municipalities within the counties as follows:

  • One from each of Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George's counties;
  • One from Harford or Cecil County;
  • One from Kent or Queen Anne's County;
  • One from Caroline County;
  • One from Talbot or Dorchester County;
  • One from Wicomico or Somerset County;
  • Two from Calvert, Charles, or St. Mary's County (both cannot be from the same county); and
  • Two from Worcester County, one who is a resident of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the other who is a resident of the Atlantic Coastal Bays watershed.

Eight individuals appointed with the advice and consent of the Senate, who represent diverse interests, and among whom shall be a resident of each of the five counties listed above from which an appointment has not been made subject to the requirements of the thirteen individuals listed above. Three of these eight individuals are "at-large members", one of whom is a private citizen and resident of the Atlantic Coastal Bays watershed.

Seven individuals, who are ex officio members, who are the Secretaries of the following State Departments or their designee:

  • Department of Agriculture;
  • Department of Business and Economic Development;
  • Department of Housing and Community Development;
  • Department of the Environment;
  • Department of Transportation;
  • Department of Natural Resources;
  • Department of Planning.

Back to Top


Terms of the Commission Members

Except for the Chairman and ex officio State officers or their designees, the term of a Commission member is four years. A member may serve no more than two terms. The terms are staggered, and at the end of a member's term, he or she continues to serve until a successor is appointed and qualifies. If a vacancy arises, other than through expiration of a term, the Governor shall appoint a successor of like qualification, with the advice and consent of the Senate, within 30 days.

Back to Top