Severn River Project Sees Budget Cuts As Debilitating

May 08, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

They want to save the Severn. But it isn't clear yet if they can save themselves.

Organizers of the Severn River Project hope to mobilize hundreds of volunteers this weekend to scour the scenic waterway for environmental hazards.

But tonight they go before the County Council, the victims of a tight budget year.

County Executive Robert R. Neall has proposed halving their $60,000 grant in the $616.6 million spending plan he sentto the County Council last week.

Peg Burroughs, a board member ofMaryland Save Our Streams, which operates the 2-year-old project, said she will ask council members to restore the full grant at tonight's budget hearing in Annapolis.

"If we don't get the money, we'll have to cut the project," Burroughs said.

"We'll have to phase it down."

Burroughs' Glen Burnie-based non-profit group launched the Severn River Project in 1989 after then-County Executive O. James Lighthizer challenged activists to develop practical answers to Anne Arundel's environmental woes.

A three-year pilot program is aimed at educating and mobilizing citizen volunteers to protect the Severn's 70-square-mile watershed, the project has received $60,000 in each of the last two years.

Save Our Streams used the money to pay two staff people, who have recruited volunteers,published educational literature and lined up corporate sponsors.

"Next year, if we get the $60,000, we can produce an additional $240,000 -- that's in goods and services from Westinghouse and other companies," Burroughs said.

Events such as Saturday's stream survey also save the county money, she said. For instance, the county must locate every storm water drain tocomply with new federal clean water regulations.

Organizers have lined up 100 to 150 volunteers to locate exposed sewer lines, sewage spills, unshaded streams, construction runoff and barriers to fish migrations. The survey is being co-sponsored by Westinghouse's Electronic Systems Group.

"We're going to map (storm drains) in the whole watershed for the county," Burroughs said. "That's got to be a nice chunk of money the county doesn't have to spend."

If the program generated enough volunteers around the Severn, Maryland Save Our Streams expected to expand it to other rivers around the county.

"You have to educate people and get them to participate," Burroughs said.

"The whole idea is to leave trained behind cadre of volunteers with a vested interest in caring for that watershed."

Saturday's surveybegins at 9 a.m. with four training sessions at locations around thewatershed. Anyone interested should contact Save Our Streams at 969-0084.

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