Waterfront Residents Chagrined By Report

August 18, 1991|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff writer

A Weems Creek task force report disappointed waterfront residents last week who had hoped the state would come forward with a comprehensive plan to restore the Annapolis waterway.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer created the task force last year to assess the damage caused bythe State Highway Administration during the Route 50 expansion and to recommend improvements.

However, the report released Wednesday focused predominantly on preventing further degradation of the Severn River tributary.

"We found in looking back at previous water quality information and reports on Weems Creek that it's very difficult to make a connection between the creek's problems and the State Highway Administration," said David A. C. Carroll, the governor's Chesapeake Bay coordinator.

"It's a culmination of 30 to 40 years of the watershed going through fairly radical change, from a quiet, tree-buffered watershed to a fairly developed area."

He said the task force is recommending the countyand Annapolis continue to improve their storm-water management policies. These include tighter regulations for new development and the retroactive installation of storm-water controls in older neighborhoods.

In conjunction with the new road construction, Carroll said SHA has installed storm-water controls to serve about 20 percent of the 1,200-acre watershed. If the recommendations are followed, as much as 50 to 60 percent of the region will be served, he said.

Weems and other creeks have suffered from urban storm runoff, which carries silt and pollutants from yards and streets into the water, Carroll said.

In much of the corridor that feeds Weems, development has proceeded with inadequate or no storm water controls, he said.

Retrofitting storm-water controls, particularly in the Admiral Heights neighborhood, will cost between $250,000 and $500,000, Carroll said. The costwould be split between the state and regional governments.

SHA also will create 1 to 2 acres of wetlands and plant marsh grasses alongthe creek to filter pollutants that reach its banks, Carroll said.

"I don't think they addressed the concerns of the residents at all," said Elizabeth McWethy, president of the Weems Creek Conservancy. "Mr. Carroll says there is no 'smoking gun,' but a lot of it has come in during their (SHA) construction. We feel it did have a significantimpact."

McWethy said residents want the state to consider a "modest" dredging program to reopen boating channels in the creek's headwaters and more extensive tree planting to buffer the creek from the highway.

The Weems Creek Conservancy and other environmental groupsreached an out-of-court settlement with SHA last summer over erosioninto the stream.

SHA officials promised to keep three road projects from further polluting Weems and also announced a statewide plan to protect other streams from road construction.

"We're not daunted," McWethy said about last week's report. "We'll push ahead to see ifwe can get (the cleanup) done some other way."

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