Move over skiers, here come the bureaucrats.
Since the Severn andMagothy River Ski Clubs sought permission to build a controversial slalom course on Maynadier Creek last fall, agency after bureaucratic agency has waded into the fray.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the host of the big splash. It regulates all navigable U.S. waters and is responsible for approving the ski clubs' request.
But the party really started last summer when the state Boating Administration, an agency within the Department of Natural Resources, set aside the isolated creek as one of two designated skiing areas along the 23-mile-long Severn River.
The designated ski areas were controversial components of the Boating Administration's Severn River management plan, which also set aside areasfor rowing, swimming and environmental conservation.
Army engineers began evaluating the ski clubs' request to install marker buoys, which are potential navigational hazards, in Maynadier last December.
"We just look at whether it's a hazard to navigation," said Army spokesman Harold Clingerman said.
"Right now, we don't think it will be hazard to navigation."
But the Army consults other state and federal agencies as well. If those agencies can make a convincingargument that the slalom course would damage the environment, the Corps could reject the permit, Clingerman said.
At least three federal and state agencies have taken the plunge. A fourth may yet.
The U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service and the Anne Arundel County Soil Conservation District have opposed the request, saying a slalom course could destroy valuable wildlife habitat and erode Maynadier's banks.
The state Water Resources Administration, another Department of Natural Resources agency, took an opposite position. It said in an April 8 letter to Army engineers that proposed course and the high-speed ski boats that would use it would have no detrimental effect.
The state Water Management Administration, an agency of the Department of the Environment, may jump in as well. Its Division of Standards and Certification regulates marine construction that could harm water quality.
No one from that agency could be reached for comment yesterday. Butresidents who oppose the ski course said they have received a letterfrom a regulator in the Division of Standards and Certification, citing the agency's opposition.
Since the 1989 General Assembly ordered the Boating Administration to impose a management plan on the Severn, the proposed ski areas have pitted homeowners and community associations against competitive water skiers from across the state.
The community groups fear the skiing would disrupt their waterfront neighborhoods, be unsafe for swimmers and harm the environment. They saythe ski boats will stir up sediments in the shallow creek, killing the submerged aquatic grasses that provide important habitat for wildlife and stabilize the creek bottom.
Skiers counter that a few waterfront residents want to keep the public waters to themselves. Scientific evidence, they say, suggests that the professional ski boats approved for use on the course will have no impact.
To help resolve the question, the Boating Administration has asked the University of Maryland to study the effects of high-speed boat traffic on valuable aquatic grasses on the entire Severn and Maynadier in particular.
The analysis, which will cost $10,645, should be completed before the April 1992 boating season.
Meanwhile, the Army could make a decision on slalom course shortly, its spokesman said.