Timber targeted by BG&E Power needs mean reservoir trees to fall

January 16, 1992|By Kim Clark

An article in The Sun on Thursday gave an incorrect estimate of the effect on bills of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.'s plan to build a new transmission line around the Loch Raven Reservoir. BG&E said yesterday that because the $33 million construction costs will be amortized over several years, the project will only add about 1 cent to the average resident's monthly bill.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. said yesterday that it will cut down 10,000 trees in a 7-mile-long swath near Loch Raven Reservoir to make room for a new transmission line.

Neighbors of the scenic area who have fought previous logging operations said they were saddened but resigned to the clearing.

"It is going to be very ugly," said Ajax Eastman, who lives near the reservoir. "Trees where we had wildlife, where birds lived, are going to be cut. The wildlife is going to be displaced."

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"It is really a shame," agreed neighbor Michael DeFilippi. "We are going to lose some mature, old-growth forest, which is becoming increasingly rare in the state. . . . But I guess progress demands more power."

Baltimore officials, who came under criticism two years ago for logging in the same area to raise cash, stressed yesterday that they were not participating in the clearing, which is to begin early next month.

BG&E has said it will give the city all the logs cut on city property, however. The gift -- an expected 400,000 board feet of wood -- would be worth between $100,000 and $170,000, according to city engineer Bob Guston.

George G. Balog, head of Baltimore's Department of Public Works, said the city has stopped logging the popular hiking area "except for thinning and diseased trees."

Noting that the Loch Raven watershed area is the collection basin for the city's water supply, Mr. Balog said: "Our emphasis is to protect the watershed. . . . The environmental aspects are more important than any other."

"The fact that we are going to make money is immaterial," he said.

Although BG&E said yesterday that it had received all the permits it needed to go ahead with the logging, Mr. Balog said he and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had not yet issued final approval for some parts of the operation.

Mr. Balog indicated he did not expect any hitches in the application, however.

BG&E said planned additions to two substations, clearing and ++ replanting, and installation of new wires will cost $33 million. BG&E passes construction costs along to customers. Going by previous rate increases, a $33 million charge passed on directly would add about $1.25 to the average monthly bill.

In its announcement, BG&E said it would double its existing 66-foot-wide transmission line path, which runs roughly east-west through parts of Gunpowder State Park and the Loch Raven watershed.

In addition, the utility will cut a 107-foot-wide detour for nine-tenths of a mile between Manor Road and Morgan Mill Road in order to preserve four houses.

In the spring, the company will plant about 10,000 trees in a 28-acre open tract in Gunpowder State Park near the transmission line to make up for the clearing.

BG&E said it must expand its transmission lines because demand for power has been booming in the northern reaches of Baltimore, Baltimore County and Harford County.

The two existing lines, which are not intended to carry more than 127 1/2 megawatts apiece, sometimes must carry at least 8 percent more electricity during days of especially high demand, company officials said. In an emergency, each line could carry 255 megawatts, the company said. A megawatt is enough power to light 10,000 100-watt light bulbs.

Neighbors in the Loch Raven area said that while they have opposed this and previous logging operations, they were reassured by BG&E.

The utility held community meetings to take suggestions and has been "very nice," Mr. DeFilippi said. "They have been very reassuring. They are going to do everything to the letter. They said they won't cut steep slopes" or worsen erosion.

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