Protecting Baltimore Rivers

December 16, 1990

When the new Baltimore County Council convened for its first work session last week, a crowd of about 30 spectators filled the bleachers in the council chambers. Most were environmental activists, lobbying for a bill that would require forest buffers to protect water quality and the natural ecology of stream systems.

This important bill merits a quick passage at tomorrow's countcouncil meeting. The result of three years of mediation efforts among environmentalists, developers and homebuilders, it would continue a county policy that has been in effect since a June 1989 executive order by former County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen required the creation of buffer areas near streams.

About 1,000 miles of streams traverse Baltimore County. Ovethe years, many of them have been degraded by channelization, development on flood plains, filling and drainage of wetlands, removal of riparian vegetation. Environmentalists argue that in order to maintain the ecological functioning of a watershed, it is essential to preserve all components of a stream system. Forest buffers are seen as an important way to protect water quality. The bill would bar development within 75 feet of streams, permitting forest buffers to filter storm water run-offs and control erosion.

This attention to water quality and ecology is a legacy of county administration that showed its sensitivity to the environment in words and deeds. At the council work session, the bill was described as a "national model." If the bill is passed, the council should make sure that it will be enforced with vigilance.

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