Nabbs Creek Friends Wary Of Bg&e Fly Ash

Utility Wants To Fill Wetlands With Byproduct

February 11, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is holding a powwow with its neighbors today to address its plans to fill nine acres of non-tidal wetlands near Nabbs Creek with ash from its coal-burning power plants.

The nine acres of what BG&E officials call "low-quality wetlands" are part of the larger 266-acre Chestnut Hill Farms tract. The utility plans to fill and develop the land as a light industrial park, as it has done with Brandon Woods on the other side of Fort Smallwood Road.

BG&E has offered to replace the wetlands with artificial ponds and other waterways in a two-for-one swap. But environmentalists say that plan still would damage the creek.

Some neighbors and environmentalists, led by Silver Sands resident Mary Rosso of the Maryland Waste Coalition, plan to fight BG&E over the wetlands issue. Rosso said her group, the Sierra Club, and Representative Tom McMillen's office all want a formal public hearing on the proposal before the Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates non-tidal wetlands.

"This meeting Monday is just BG&E trying to play the benevolent neighbor to sell uson their fly ash proposal," Rosso said. "By no means is it a fair hearing on the issue.

"We feel they have enough land that they don't need to fill in around the creeks," Rosso said. "They would do a lot less harm if they used some of the 200 acres they just bought along Marley Neck Boulevard (and Fort Smallwood Road)."

Arthur Yost of Chestnut Hill Cove, across Nabbs Creek from the property in question, said his community recently scrapped plans to build a marina because Nabbs Creek is an important duck-nesting area. He said he and his neighbors don't take kindly to BG&E's plans.

"We've taken out 200 tires from that creek and are trying very hard to clean things up," Yostsaid.

Opponents have also found the support of a strange bedfellow -- the CSX realty and development division, which owns and is developing a 2,272-unit housing complex along Marley Creek. CSX has been a key figure in several land deals involving North County.

David Lancaster, CSX's vice president in charge of development, has drafted a three-page letter calling the potential damage to "significant tributaries" of Nabbs Creek "unwarranted and unnecessary."

But not all area groups have come down against BG&E's proposal.

Oliver E. Hatfield, the newly elected president of Riviera Beach Community Improvement Association, said the association's board of directors "will hold its fire until after the meeting.

"We want to find out exactly what they plan to do," he said, "and then we will take a position. He expressed confidence in the Corps of Engineers' "strict" guidelines for restricting wetlands development.

Corps of Engineers spokesman Tom Kiddoo said the decision to accept BG&E's proposal would be based on whether the utility has another reasonable alternative open to it. Public reaction during a comment period that ended Dec. 15 also will be considered, he said.

Monika S. Bay, BG&E supervisor for land-use management, said the utility produces 470,000 tons of fly ash a year, enough to fill one acre 300 feet high. Fly ash is a non-hazardous byproduct produced by Brandon Shore's and Wagner's four coal-fired generators.

Although BG&E is building a plant to convert 40 percent of that fly ash into an aggregate that can be used to make cinder blocks, it will run out of space at the Brandon Woods fill in fall 1992, she said.

The utility worked around an additional 18 wetland acres in the plan it submitted to the Corps of Engineers last September. Bay said it believes a two-for-one swap for nine affected acres would be a fair balance with the environment.

The meeting is set for 7 tonight in the Fort Smallwood office complex.

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